Another student objected to being filmed. “I don’t want to be recorded, that’s actually pretty illegal,” she said. (It’s not illegal to film someone in a public place.)
At some point, the professor, William Greg Thatcher, came over and told them that they didn’t have permission to draw on the sidewalk. The student insisted they did, but Thatcher continued, insisting that “it’s a pretty simple concept” that college campuses aren’t “free speech areas” unless you’re in a “free speech area.”
“The whole idea of free speech is that we have a free speech area on campus, OK?” Thatcher said. “This does not constitute a free speech area, OK?”
Dr. Thatcher then went over to the chalkings and began erasing them himself – he said he was exercising his own free speech, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
“College campuses are not free speech areas,” the professor insisted. “Do you understand? Obviously, you don’t understand.”
Well … it’s Dr. Thatcher who doesn’t understand. The group filed a lawsuit that they will most certainly win.
The students are defended by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit.
“No university professor has the authority to roam the campus, silencing any student speech he happens to find objectionable and recruiting students to participate in this censorship,” their lawyer said. “Like all government officials, professors have an obligation to respect students’ free speech rights.”
In a statement to CNN, Joseph Castro, president of California State University, Fresno, said the school’s policy on free speech is clear.
“Free speech on campus is not limited to a ‘free speech zone’ or any other narrowly defined area,” he said. “Those disagreeing with the students’ message have a right to their own speech, but they do not have the right to erase or stifle someone else’s speech under the guise of their own right to free speech.”
For the record: Professor Thatcher’s PhD is in “health promotion and behavior,” which means he’d make an excellent PE teacher – not a First Amendment expert.