Friday, May 23, 2008

Stripping the empty holsters 

You remember our debate on campus here about the Empty Holsters campaign? At Tarrant County College in Texas, they made a much worse choice. FIRE reports:
On March 28, 2008, TCC student Brett Poulos e-mailed TCC South Campus President Ernest L. Thomas to describe an event he was organizing called an "Empty Holster Protest." Poulos had collaborated with Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), a national organization that "supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses." SCCC promoted a coordinated national protest for April 2008 in which students would peacefully attend class and perform other daily tasks while wearing empty holsters to signify opposition to state laws and school policies denying concealed handgun license holders the same rights on college campuses that they are granted in most other places.

In an April 10 response, Juan Garcia, Vice President for Student Development, "granted" Poulos's request to stage a protest on the South Campus, but changed the fundamental nature of the protest by banning the protesters from wearing empty holsters anywhere on the South Campus, including in the designated free speech zone. The South Campus free speech zone, according to Poulos, is an elevated, circular concrete platform about 12 feet across.

Poulos met with Garcia on April 18 and was told that TCC would take adverse action if SCCC members wore empty holsters anywhere, strayed beyond the campus's free speech zone during their holster-less protest, or even wore t-shirts advocating "violence" or displaying "offensive" material.
You can have your empty holster protest, but don't wear an empty holster? What kind of sense does that make?

The other issue in this, and the larger reason I'm posting on it, is the use of these free speech zones, which SCSU has. I had hoped that when the Code Pink protest in March had ended up having the students and their advisor apprised of the policy that both liberal and conservative students and faculty might come together and ask that this policy be eliminated, replaced by the sensible restriction to not permit the disruption of classes. So far, all we have seen is further questioning by students of the speech rights of preachers who come to campus. As the Tarrant County story makes clear though, the zones' existence permits a curtailing of free speech far greater than just a time restriction. Public expression zone policies are an invitation for censorship.

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