A California professor who is seen on video trying to censor pro-life students drawing with sidewalk chalk has been ordered to undergo First Amendment training and pay $17,000 as a result of a district court settlement.
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Fresno State University public health professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher recruited students from his class to help deface the Fresno State Students for Life sidewalk chalk.
Thatcher allegedly harassed and intimidated the group, accusing them of chalking outside the free speech zone on campus -- which hadn't existed at the school since 2015.
“What the professor did was wrong, and the only permit a student needs to speak on campus is the First Amendment,” the pro-life club’s president, Bernadette Tasy, told Fox News.
The chalk messages encouraged students on campus to seek pro-life health care options.
Tasy captured an exchange between herself and Thatcher in a video clip of the incident.
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“Free speech is free speech in the free speech area,” Thatcher is heard telling Tasy. “It’s a pretty simple concept, okay? This does not constitute a free speech area. Okay?”
After Tasy insisted they had permission from the university, Thatcher started erasing the chalk with his shoe.
“You have permission to put it down, and I have permission to get rid of it. This is our part of free speech. College campuses are not free speech areas,” Thatcher said, “Do you understand? Obviously you don’t understand.”
As part of the settlement, in which Alliance Defending Freedom represented FSSL, Thatcher will pay $1,000 to Tasy and $1,000 to another student, Jesus Herrera, along with some attorneys’ fees. The professor is also required to undergo First Amendment training to be provided by ADF.
Thatcher told Fox News he won’t have to pay a penny out of his own pocket because the settlement was made through his insurance company.
“I did not, in any way, admit to any wrongdoing,” Thatcher said. “I did agree to sit through a training seminar because I love to learn others’ thoughts and opinions.”
But Tasy said it’s not about the money.
“The important thing is that Dr. Thatcher won’t be able to interfere with our expressive activities again,” she said.
Tasy was “really shocked” that a professor would behave like that – especially at a public university.
“Public university professors should be encouraging free speech and not erasing it from existence,” she said.
Travis Barham, ADF Legal Counsel, said Thatcher was “in a league of his own” with such a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.
“This is a particularly extreme case because you have a professor trying to wipe away the chalk himself,” Barham said. “Far too often university officials try to play the role of speech police and try to restrict what can be said and where it can be said on campus.”