Cali college students sue school after censorship of anti-communist flyers from campus

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Students at a California college filed a federal lawsuit against the school’s president and other administrators for alleged discrimination against conservative political views. 

“YAF will not sit idly by as college administrators continue to stomp on the First Amendment rights of conservative students in the name of ‘diversity and inclusion’” Young America’s Foundation spokeswoman Kara Zupkus told Fox News Digital on Tuesday. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed the suit last Thursday on behalf of three chapter members of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Clovis Community College. The suit alleges they were discriminated against when the school ordered the removal of flyers promoting Freedom Week in November of 2021. Freedom Week is an event launched by the Young America’s Foundation that pushes back against socialism and promotes conservative ideology, according to YAF’s website. 

The lawsuit reviewed by Fox News Digital states the three plaintiffs had received approval to post the anti-communist and anti-socialist flyers on bulletin boards inside campus buildings. They were taken down, however, at the direction of Clovis President Dr. Lori Bennett, according to the complaint. 

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Exterior and sign for Clovis Community College in California. (Google Maps)

Exterior and sign for Clovis Community College in California. (Google Maps) (Google Maps )

Emails obtained by Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression under a public record request show an administrator at the college offering to “gladly take down” the flyers. The emails show that administrators were aware the YAF chapter is an “official club on campus,” but noted “several people” were “very uncomfortable” with the flyers, including a person who allegedly threatened a “harassment claim” if the posters were not taken down. 

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One of the flyers in question reads, “Leftist Ideas: ‘Progress’ that always leads to death.” The poster showed skulls and bones being buried, accompanied by data on how many people have been killed in countries that ushered in “progressive social movements.”  

“​​Freedom of expression is of paramount importance on college campuses, which have historically trained future leaders through exposure to a wide range of perspectives,” FIRE attorney Jeff Zeman told Fox News Digital on Tuesday. “President Bennett and other Clovis administrators censored the students of YAF-Clovis based on the viewpoints the students expressed, in a clear violation of the First Amendment’s promise of free speech at public institutions of higher education.”

The Clovis YAF chapter chairman, who is also plaintiff in the case, said that the goal of the lawsuit is “to ensure that everyone has the right to free expression.”

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“When administrators pick and choose what speech is acceptable, you no longer have free speech. We hope this lawsuit sends a clear message to all tyrannical administrators out there––YAF is on watch,” student Alejandro Flores said, according to the YAF press release.

The lawsuit also addressed an issue in December 2021, when the students say they were denied permission by the dean of student services to post pro-life flyers on bulletin boards inside campus buildings. They were told they could instead post them on a “free speech kiosk.” The lawsuit states the kiosk is “a small box covered in rotting wood planks, sits at the edge of a walkway students virtually never use because it does not lead to any building entrances or parking lots.” 

Among the list of defendants in the suit are: Clovis Community College President Lori Bennett, Vice President of Student Services Marco De La Garza, Dean of Student Services Gurdeep Sihota Hebert, and Senior Student Services Program Specialist Patrick Stumpf. 

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“Clovis Community College’s policy and its application are illegal, and FIRE won’t let them get away with it,” said FIRE Attorney Gabe Walters, according to the YAF press release. “Clovis administrators ‘gladly’ removed flyers they found offensive, and we’re gladly suing them to protect Alejandro, Juliette, and Daniel’s rights—and those of all students.”

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