Prof: ‘college campuses are not free speech areas’
- A Fresno State University professor was recently caught on camera scrubbing pro-life message off of the sidewalk and encouraging several of his students to do the same.
- When confronted by the pro-life students, who informed him they had permission to leave the chalkings, the professor claimed that free speech only applies to the (nonexistent) "free speech area."
A Fresno State University professor was recently caught on camera scrubbing pro-life message off of the sidewalk and encouraging several of his students to do the same.
“The whole idea of free speech is that we have a free speech area on campus, kay?” Professor Gregory Thatcher erroneously declares in a video recorded by the school’s Students for Life chapter. “Free speech is free speech in the free speech area. It’s a pretty simple concept, okay? This does not constitute a free speech area, okay?”
He and his “students” go on to argue that it is within their own First Amendment rights to actively remove the pro-life messages from campus, and in one instance Thatcher claims that since the pro-life group has “permission to put it down” he has “permission to get rid of it.”
“This is our part of free speech. Do you disagree with our part of free speech?” Thatcher asked while erasing one of the club’s messages, after which he proclaimed that “college campuses are not free speech areas.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has since filed a lawsuit against Thatcher on behalf of the Students for Life chapter at Fresno State, arguing that his efforts to intimidate and harass members of the Student for Life chapter violated their fundamental right to free speech.
“Fresno State Students for Life received full permission to chalk pro-life messages near the library. Rather than countering with his own message, Dr. Thatcher took the illegal approach of censoring speech and inciting students to help in this,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, remarked in a press release, claiming that no student “should have to endure this kind of intimidation and harassment for simply expressing their views.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, also asks the court to prohibit Thatcher and “any other persons acting on his behalf or at his direction from interfering, disrupting, or altering any future lawful expressive activities that [Fresno State Students for Life and its members] conduct.”
“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters,” ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox stated in Thursday’s press release. “That’s why it’s so important that university professors model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that this Fresno State professor, like so many other university officials across the country, is communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”
Campus Reform reached out to Thatcher for comment on the matter, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski