A student at Palm Beach State University tells The Examiner she was prevented from recruiting members for a fledgling conservative club during a campus rush event for registered clubs. Christina Beattie, who was trying to establish a campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, says that when she learned that the school required the names of five students in order to register a club, she sought out a venue to recruit other students. (You can read YAF’s press release about the incident here.)
She said an administrator had told her it would be okay to set up a table at the event in order to recruit students. The table was adorned with pamphlets from YAF, but also studies from the conservative Heritage Foundation, critical of President Obama. Olivia Morris-Ford — the school’s student activities coordinator — saw the table, and told Christina to break it down within 15 minutes, saying that only registered organizations could participate. The video linked here shows the forcefulness of the administrator, who, with a security detail, told the student to take her table down immediately. She insisted no phone call ever took place in which she gave permission.
I was directed to Grace Truman, the director of college relations and marketing, who said that as far as she was aware, no such phone call was made. But, I asked, would it be possible for an administrator to waive the requirement? Sure, Truman said, but it was unlikely. Morris-Ford and the dean of students, Penny McIsaac, were unavailable for comment.
That’s just the thing. Beattie should certainly have filled out the paperwork to attend the event (it doesn’t look complicated), but she was presenting no threat to peace nor was she disturbing or harassing students. If Morris-Ford wanted, she could well have permitted Beattie to remain after a quick chat about protocol. Instead she provided a police escort. Such is the power of an angry bureaucrat backed by security.
It would be another thing if Beattie hadn’t set up a table, but instead leafleted during the event. I spoke with Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who noted that in International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, the court decided that pamphleteering was so innocuous and harmless that it’s hard to place reasonable limitations on it. Given that Palm Beach State University is a public community college, nothing prevents Beattie from handing out leaflets, or standing on a sidewalk with a clipboard to recruit students, at any time.
The point? Bureaucratic administrators love red tape and have no compunction about throwing their weight around, especially when it’s against conservative groups. There were ways for Morris-Ford to be the grown-up in this, but as ever, college administrators aren’t generally grown-ups.