Free Speech on Campus graphic

Joliet Junior College – November 28, 2017

Student prevented from distributing anti-capitalist flyers on campus

Joliet, IL

Campus police at Joliet Junior College stopped a student from handing out flyers critical of capitalism on November 28, 2017. They confiscated her materials and detained her for forty minutes on the grounds that she had not received permission to use the school’s Free Speech Zone. In return, she sued the school, with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Key Players

Ivette Salazar is a nursing student at Joliet Junior College who was detained by campus police for distributing anti-capitalist literature in a Free Speech Zone. On January 11, 2018, her complaint alleging violation of her First Amendment rights was formally filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Joliet Junior College (JJC) is a public community college in Joliet, Illinois, located approximately 30 miles southwest of Chicago. JJC has designated Free Speech Zones, with strict regulations about how they can be used. Students can set up tables, run by two students each, so long as they remain behind a table or other divider when they are in the area. They must submit tabling requests five business days in advance through a reservation form, and any literature students distribute in the area must first receive the approval of JJC’s Office of Student Services and Activities.

Further Details

On November 28, 2017, Salazar noticed students from the conservative group Turning Point USA handing out anti-socialist flyers in JJC’s Free Speech Zone. Later that day, she returned to the area and began handing out her own pamphlets, which read “Shut Down Capitalism” and advertised an upcoming workshop on Marxism. She also left the flyers on public tables nearby and in a concourse connecting two campus buildings, reported the Chicago Tribune.

A campus police officer and janitor approached and stopped Salazar, telling her she did not have approval to distribute her flyers in the area, reported the Tribune. According to Salazar, the officer told her that given the “political climate of the country,” she “might start something on campus” if she distributed flyers on this topic. The students from Turning Point USA reportedly continued to hand out their literature as Salazar talked with the college employees. She said she was then accompanied to campus police headquarters, where police took her flyers and detained her for forty minutes.

When Salazar asked three officers about her freedom of speech, as they were questioning her about the incident, one of them allegedly responded, “To put it bluntly, you have freedom of speech but only if we approve it … If you want to go ahead and post your flyers and burn your crosses, you have to get it approved by [the Office of Student Services and Activities].” Salazar said that after being released she left campus, because she felt unnerved by the several officers she passed, whom she said seemed to be observing her.

Outcome

College settles lawsuit, pays $30,000

The Joliet Patch reported that JJC settled the lawsuit on April 18, 2018, agreeing to pay $30,000 in damages to FIRE. The school also agreed to change its Free Speech Zone policies and to retrain its staff and campus police on the updated policies. An official statement from FIRE indicated that JJC has agreed to allow for free expression throughout the campus, provided that speech aligns with constitutional time, place, and manner regulations.

External References

Illinois college sued over ‘free speech zone’, Chicago Tribune.

Lawsuit: Joliet Junior College workers stopped student from distributing political flyers, Chicago Tribune.

Joliet Junior College – Stand Up for Free Speech Lawsuit, FIRE.

FIRE files lawsuit on behalf of Illinois student detained by police for ‘Shut Down Capitalism’ flyers, FIRE.

Verified Complaint to the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

Free Speech Lawsuit Costs Joliet Junior College $30,000, Joliet Patch.

VICTORY: Student detained for passing out political flyers settles lawsuit with Illinois College, FIRE.

Sen. Hatch introduces bill to end free speech zones on campuses, The Daily Universe.

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded May 7, 2018