It was supposed to be a stunt to point out the silliness of banning unwanted activity by decree, but a college conservative group in Oregon was stunned at the reason school officials killed their proposed “murder free zone.”
Portland State University’s College Republicans chapter sought permission to set up a table on campus to generate support for the idea, but school officials said their effort could promote violence against them. Now the group and First Amendment advocates say it is school officials who need to study up – on the Constitution.
“In the murder-free zone we were looking to create, nobody will be killed with guns, knives, sticks, or anything of the sort,” said Christian Britschgi, political director of Oregon’s College Republican Federation chapter.
“College is a place where ideas collide, and the administration should be there to foster an environment where that can take place.”
Britschgi, who wrote about his effort in a column for The College Fix, figured getting permission to set up the table would be “as easy as renting a library book.” The idea was to advance a “murder-free zone” as a logical extension of the “gun free zones” on campus and in buildings across the Portland area.
“Our advisor signed off on our proposal quickly at first but became skeptical after she saw the nature of the content,” Britschgi said.
Upon further review, Britschgi said, school officials determined the proposal could be “libelous,” “triggering” and cause people to attack them.
Portland State officials did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Peter Bonilla, director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), called the idea that the group’s proposal was libelous or could lead to violence “ludicrous.”
“It is insulting to students to assume that if one sees the word “murder,” they might be sent off into a violent range,” Bonilla said.
The seemingly-absurd attempt for universities like Portland State to avoid triggers extends from a larger debate between officials in higher education attempting to minimize the harm of sexual violence, he said.
“This can be seen as an outgrowth of the wider concerns we have seen from Title 9,” Bonilla said.
The debates have “mushroomed” and in this case, are being taken out of context, according to Bonilla.
“In the case of the students at Portland State, there is nothing other than language policing taking place,” he said.
Britschgi said he will keep trying to push for free speech on campus.
“College is a place where ideas collide, and the administration should be there to foster an environment where that can take place,” he said.