VIDEO: Temple kicks conservative group to the curb for lack of reservation

A student group at Temple University was prevented from recruiting in the Student Union Wednesday because they had not pre-registered to use the public university’s campus.

“We were in the atrium of the Student Union by the steps for probably about 15 minutes, just asking people questions about things like the drug war, the right to bear arms, etc.,” Jerry Murray, co-President of the school’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter, told Campus Reform. “There was a security guard standing around who seemed to be observing us, and eventually he came up to us and said we would have to leave.”

Video of the ensuing conversation, which was provided to Campus Reform, shows the “security guard”—actually Senior Director of Student Center Operations Jason Levy—explaining to the group that they would have to vacate the area, and furthermore would not be able to continue their activities on any other part of campus because they had failed to make a reservation.

“The only place you can do what you’re doing without a reservation is on the sidewalk,” Levy tells them, adding, “and you have to be on a Philadelphia sidewalk, not Temple property.”

When Murray protests that YAL is a registered student organization, Levy responds that “you have to have a reservation to do anything as a student organization on campus,” reiterating that “if you don’t have a reservation, the only place you can do what you’re doing is on the sidewalk.”

“Isn’t it a public school, though?” Murray presses him.

“It is a public school, but it’s Temple property not public property,” Levy replies, adding that if they do not comply with his instructions, “then your group could potentially lose the ability to have reservations, lose funding, stuff like that.”

Murray confirmed to Campus Reform that YAL is officially recognized by the university, and added that the group was not creating any sort of disturbance that might have caused concern about its activities.

“Most people were apathetic, though we did get a few people to sign up,” he said. “A few people did say they disagreed with us, but they were all either cordial or apathetic, and we didn’t catch any heat.”

Levy, on the other hand, told Campus Reform that the issue had nothing to do with decorum, but was simply a matter of enforcing the university’s rules, and pointed out that “the City of Philadelphia owns the sidewalks and the streets, and the policies that we implement don’t have anything to do with the City.”

“As a member of a registered student organization, there’s a process by which they are supposed to reserve space appropriately,” he said, noting that “student groups go through a training every year to learn about that process, and these guys didn’t have a reservation for today for a space that they could use.”

Moreover, Levy claimed that “the space they were in cannot be reserved regardless,” because while the main area of the atrium is equipped with tables for student group activities, the YAL group was “in the stairwell area, which is not reservable under any circumstances, due to the traffic in the area.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), however, maintains that public institutions of higher learning have exactly the same obligations under the First Amendment that government bodies have, and that policies such as those in place at Temple are therefore unconstitutional.

“University administrators frequently believe that all time, place, and manner restrictions—that is, restrictions that are not based on the content of speech—are permissible,” FIRE observes on its website, but asserts that “while universities have the right to maintain rules prohibiting genuine disruption of the educational process, policies that restrict free speech to just one or two areas of a large campus or that require substantial advanced registration are undoubtedly ‘substantially broader than necessary’ to protect the educational process.”

Levy told Campus Reform that while he is familiar with FIRE’s reasoning, he does not share the organization’s perspective on the matter, though he invited public debate on the matter.

“I’ve talked with FIRE, and we’ve had these conversations in years past, and I think the policies and procedures have weighed against due diligence and scrutiny,” he said. “But if folks want to have that conversation, I’m happy to have that conversation. I think there’s ample opportunity for student organizations to do what they need to do under the policies that are currently in place.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete