NY’s Kingsborough Comm. College finds another way to restrict student speech

ADF attorneys send letter on third abuse in three months, school uses ‘faculty advisor’ rule to disrupt student events
Monday, June 21, 2010

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys sent Kingsborough Community College officials a letter Monday calling upon them to end an unconstitutional policy that allows a faculty advisor to cancel a student organization’s event and silence its message by simply not showing up for the event. The policy, which requires that a faculty advisor be present at all events, was misused when one student scheduled a forum on the topic of marriage.

“The whims of government officials should not be allowed to trump the constitutionally protected rights of students whose views those officials don’t favor,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Travis Barham. “It is simply unconstitutional for a college to give faculty advisors the unrestricted, unilateral right to cancel student-led events simply by refusing to attend them. The college’s rule allows faculty advisors to silence student events altogether if they advance viewpoints the advisors don’t like or to extort concessions from students as a price for faculty cooperation. This is simply unacceptable in what is supposed to be the marketplace of ideas.”

Student Joseph Hayon, president of the KCC Republican Club, booked a room on campus twice to hold the forum, titled “The Economic, Political, Social, and Legal Outcome on Same-Gender Marriage,” but administration and faculty exerted conditions and required alterations that compromised the event each time, cancelling it once and almost cancelling it a second time.

After KCC’s bureaucratic run-around forced Hayon to cancel the forum in March, he changed the purpose of another reservation in May so that the forum could take place before the school year’s end. But days before the event, KCC’s dean threatened to cancel it unless Hayon met several quickly crafted restrictive requirements, including allowing a KCC official to moderate the event.

After receiving an urgent letter from ADF, officials agreed to rescind the dean’s requirements and to allow the forum to take place. But then Hayon faced new hurdles due to KCC’s policy requiring a faculty advisor to attend every event. As the price of his attendance, the advisor gave Hayon his own last-minute list of preconditions that were more restrictive than the dean’s, a list that included letting the advisor moderate the forum and giving him the authority to shut it down at any time. In their most recent letter, ADF attorneys insist that KCC repeal its problematic faculty advisor rule to prevent future censorship and to avoid legal action.

ADF attorneys first interacted with KCC officials through a letter in March over a separate incident in which the school prohibited Hayon from handing out pro-life newsletters on campus to willing passersby. In that instance, the school reversed course after receiving the ADF letter. 

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.