By Ryan Gaydos, ,
Published January 16, 2017
Four Southern Oregon University students claim university officials threatened to call the police and take disciplinary action against them last week after they passed out free copies of the U.S. Constitution and asked other students to sign a petition to end limitations on areas where students can demonstrate.
The demonstrators, who are affiliated with Students for Concealed Carry, a student-run, nonpartisan national organization that advocates for the right to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, said they were standing on a sidewalk passing out Constitutions when school officials told them they had to move. The students also asked classmates to sign a petition calling for an end to the “free speech zone,” a designated area on campus where students can assemble to protest.
In a video obtained by Campus Reform, a self-described watchdog group, a university official confronts the group about their petition, saying they needed to explain why the zone was created and its necessity.
“I think if you’re going to ask someone to sign a petition, it is always helpful to explain both sides of the position,” the official, identified by Campus Reform as university housing director Tim Robitz, is heard saying in the video.
The students claim they were then threatened with disciplinary action if they continued to protest, a charge the university disputes.
“First, campus public security told us we needed to move our activities to the free speech zone,” Stephanie Keaveney, a member of Students for Concealed Carry, told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. “Then, security told us they were going to call the Ashland Police Department and let the administration know we were refusing to leave.”
The free speech zone, located near the university’s student center, is confined to less than one percent of the campus, Keaveney said.
“Every person we talked to agreed with us that this is a free speech issue,” she said. “What the university was doing is unconstitutional.”
But a spokesman for the university said the students were only asked, not forced, to move.
“[The students] were not forced to move to the free speech zone, nor were they prevented from continuing to hand out their literature,” Ryan Brown, Southern Oregon University’s Head of Community and Media Relations, said in an email to FoxNews.com.
Brown added that the university does not plan to take any action against the students.
Similar actions by universities have taken place across the country in recent years.
A Modesto Junior College student who was blocked last year from handing out copies of the Constitution at the California campus won a $50,000 settlement along with an agreement that the college would revise its speech codes.
In April, a University of Hawaii at Hilo student filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that he and another student were told to stop passing out copies of the Constitution.
And in September, several Young Americans for Freedom students at Penn State were handing out copies of the Constitution and informing other students about the school’s speech policies when they were told to take down their table, Breitbart reported. The students, however, were still allowed to hand out the flyers.