College faces 1A lawsuit after tearing down anti-communist posters

Conservative students at Clovis Community College filed a First Amendment lawsuit after their anti-communist flyers were torn down by the administration.

The students allege the policy is overbroad and stifles conservative speech.

Three Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) students at Clovis Community College filed a First Amendment lawsuit on Aug. 11 against college president Lori Bennett after the group’s anti-communist flyers were removed from campus bulletin boards.

According to the lawsuit, the flyers were approved by college administrators in November 2021 and highlighted the death and destruction caused by communist regimes.

Clovis is located in Fresno, California. 

Bennett subsequently ordered the posters to be removed after administrators raised concerns that they were mistakenly approved.

Patrick Stumpf, senior program specialist of student activities, wrote in a Nov. 8 email to Lorrie Hopper, Vice President of Administrative Services, that the posters violated a 2018 policy that prevents approved content from containing “inappropriate or offensive language or themes.”

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Bennett ordered the posters to be removed on Nov. 12 and concurred that administrators could justify the removal by claiming the flyers were not club announcements.

However, FIRE argues that there is no policy requiring flyers to be only announcements.

Leslie King, Office of the President’s Executive Assistant, complained about the flyers in a Nov. 8 email in which she alleged “several people” were “uncomfortable” with the anti-communist posters.

King also stated “one person said they would file a harassment claim” if the posters were not removed. Stumpf responded he would “gladly” remove the posters.

Alejandro Flores, founder and former chairman of the Clovis College YAF chapter, told Campus Reform that removing the posters was a partisan attack. 

According to Flores, liberal groups do not receive the same treatment regarding content. 

“I have seen left-leaning content approved and displayed around campus. I just wish that the school would also let us voice our ideas too,” Flores said.

The college has not responded to the lawsuit, but Flores is hopeful that the legal pressure will force the college to reconsider its poster policies.

“Free speech is the foundation of our country, it’s immensely important that every student has the right to free expression,” Flores said. “The only way to combat bad ideas is with more speech, not less of it.”

Jeff Zeman, FIRE Litigation Fellow, told Campus Reform that no model policy has been proposed to challenge the existing precedent.

[RELATED: ‘Antifa’ vandalizes posters, replaces with ‘threatening’ imagery involving Trump voter]

The chapter has continued to face censorship on campus. In December, the chapter was barred from hanging pro-life posters on campus. According to FIRE, the administration alleged that the group could not post the flyers because they were not group announcements. 

Campus Reform reported that in January Flores’ chapter fell victim to pro-abortion vandalism after their pro-life signs accompanying a memorial display were stolen and found in a nearby trashcan after the members left the display.

The signs had directed pregnant students to local resources. 

Flores was adamant that the group is not backing down against the alleged bias. 

“I’m thankful to FIRE and YAF for standing alongside…us on our battle for our constitutional rights,” he said.

Stephanie Babb, Clovis Community College Director of Marketing & Communication, told Campus Reform the “district does not comment on pending litigation.”

Campus Reform contacted Clovis Community College and every administrator mentioned for comment and will update accordingly.

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