Over the past few weeks, while trying to get my new organization, Monthly Expense Project, recognized by the SBA, and while trying to advertise for my Open Mic event, I have been exposed to the bureaucracy of the student body – not the administration—and it has certainly given rise to a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress. (It is important here to note that I take no issue with the SBA in regards to MEP, as they were actually quite supportive of my proposal).
I posted an ad on the window of the student lounge on the first floor, and the student lounge in the library 1M floor. Both were up on Friday morning (and had been up for two days), and down Saturday morning. I asked the guard what happened and he said probably a dean complained and asked a maintenance worker to take it down. I’d like to investigate this because I actually think a student did it.
I am going to avoid the argument that my constitutional rights as an American have been violated by the removal of this ad because I don’t have enough space in this column for that. But someone, a friend of mine, stated that we “signed something away” when we signed up to go to school here, and one of these freedoms was the ability to post an advertisement on glass. This was a two-sided ad, which is to be sure, a rarity in the advertising world. How do we reward creativity? We ban it.
I understand the prudential arguments – that other members of the co-sponsoring clubs did not want to be seen to be associated with someone so unstable and crazy as to post an ad with hundreds of words of text, and several “controversial” statements about religion, sexuality, and whatever other b-s arguments they came up with to restrict my speech. Never mind that the co-chair of this special sequence of events read the ad and saw no problem with it. Even after revising and putting up a huge disclaimer, they felt this was even more offensive in a way. I can’t win.
BLS does state, at https://blsconnect.brooklaw.edu/student_life/studentorgs/resourcesforstudentorganizationleaders/Documents/Events%20advertising%20pdf.pdf, a policy on advertising on bulletin boards: students may utilize bulletin boards if the flyer complies with all requirements. My flyer complied with all requirements – except I noted my address at gmail, not brooklaw. What a mistake. Nobody mentioned the *beverages* line in it, which was arguably the most “illegal” thing about it. Moreover, I was told, we cannot advertise on glass. While this provision mentioned bulletin boards specifically, we can get into a kind of statutory construction argument here – does the omission of glass in the policy statement imply that it is allowed, or not? In this case, not, so long as it advances your argument.
I know the ABA is coming to visit soon, and believe me, if those ads were taken down the day before this visit, I would understand and not complain. But we have about 12 days until the event, and it is necessary to get as much interest as possible.
Even so, I do not believe that advertising on glass is something that an ABA representative would see and consider it so offensive that it would negatively criticize BLS – it would show that students have an interest in making their voices heard – which is something that law school implicitly encourages. We have a class on the First Amendment, and we consider what is protected speech and what is not. I have not taken First Amendment Con Law, but let me try to make an educated guess, and you can comment and tell me if I’m wrong about it:
I think the question to consider is this: does the school’s interest in restricting my speech outweigh my interest in making that speech? In the case of an ABA visit, perhaps, but even that is a speculative assertion. The ABA might, perhaps, care more about post-graduation employment data, or the cut-backs on summer public service grant funding, or whether BLS intends to keep their incoming classes smaller, like the current 1L class.
I think I’d lose this case because my opportunities to advertise elsewhere are ample. Regardless, I can’t help but feel that this underscores the hypocrisy of the institution – not BLS itself, but the institution of law school. It is not the time and place to take the administration to task – that will be next week – but schools that want to encourage free and open debate should not remove posters without any notice to the student responsible. It’s possible that the students I had these “free and open debates” with removed them, and I’d like to know if the administration had any problem with them. In general, while I am unhappy about losing 45% of my funding for this year, and $2,000 for funding next summer, the administration has not seriously “screwed me” on anything (negligent misrepresentation aside, for now), and in general, has never aimed to hinder my interest in free speech. It has always been students. Until the truth about the removal of this ad comes out, the burden is on the defendants to rebut my presumption.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He does not enjoy getting into fights. Please e-mail him at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (if you prefer the chat thing) for any comments, criticisms, or interest in performing at the Vagina Monologues/Open Mic event on April 5, 2012, from 7:00 – 10:00 PM at Geraldo’s.