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Community College Bars R-Rated Movies,

INCLUDING "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST": The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the story.

The college's justification is that apparently some high school students also go to the college part-time, but that seems a pretty poor reason to limit student groups from showing movies on-campus to adult students -- likely the great majority of the audience. (If necessary, the college could insist that the groups card all attendees to make sure they're 17 or over.) Check out the response of the college's lawyer, which disagrees with some of FIRE's allegation but concedes that the college has a no-R-rated-movie policy.

I suspect the policy is constitutional: The college may limit student groups' use of its facilities in viewpoint-neutral ways and the ban on R-rated movies would probably be treated as viewpoint-neutral (though I realize that one could argue the contrary). The ratings aren't legally binding; a theater that lets kids in to R-rated movies couldn't be prosecuted for that. But a college may choose not to open up its classrooms after class hours to such movies.

Also, that the school allowed a seemingly sexually related skit to be performed at a college theater doesn't really undermine the policy's validity. A school can legitimately conclude that R-rated movies are going to be more appealing to underage kids than skits would be, plus the college may feel that it's cost-effective to rely on movie ratings, but too difficult (and too prone to viewpoint discrimination) for the college to make its own judgments about unrated material such as skits.

But that doesn't make the policy sensible or proper for an educational institution. The college may not have aspirations to being a Harvard, but it is a college, in which most of the students are adults.

Community colleges and not just Ivy League schools ought to want to broaden their students' intellectual lives, and to treat their students as grown-ups rather than children. The college's lawyer complains that if the college allowed a broader range of speech, "[o]ne could only imagine the bizarre clubs and activities that would be formed." Heaven forbid that bizarre clubs and bizarre speech be present on college campuses.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. OK to Show "The Passion of the Christ" at Community College:
  2. Community College Bars R-Rated Movies,
OK to Show "The Passion of the Christ" at Community College:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports (some paragraph breaks added):

In a statement issued yesterday evening, Florida's Indian River Community College (IRCC) overturned its prohibition on a student-organized screening of The Passion of the Christ. IRCC made the decision after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took the case of the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF), which wanted to show the film, to the national media.

IRCC's statement confirmed that the college had not enforced its policies on public expression consistently and according to constitutional guidelines. Late last week, CSF also reported that IRCC has rescinded its authoritarian requirement that a faculty advisor monitor all student organization meetings.

"We appreciate IRCC's acknowledgement of its mistakes and its recognition of its duty to allow constitutionally protected expression on campus," remarked FIRE President David French. "While the students never should have been put through this experience, FIRE is very pleased that IRCC ultimately decided to reject oppression and embrace liberty—not just for the Christian Student Fellowship, but for all of its students."

Last fall, IRCC prohibited CSF from hosting a screening of The Passion of the Christ on campus, justifying its actions by claiming to have banned all R-rated movies. Soon afterwards, it enacted a new policy requiring a faculty advisor's presence at all student group events. This Orwellian policy effectively prevented CSF from meeting because its demands on the time of CSF's faculty advisor forced him to resign. When CSF's efforts to resolve the situation proved unsuccessful, the group contacted FIRE for help.

FIRE intervened and quickly discovered and publicized a profound double standard: IRCC had recently allowed the performance of a skit called "F**king for Jesus" and a viewing of the R-rated documentary film Welcome to Sarajevo, but it would not allow the showing of The Passion of the Christ. Under intense media pressure, IRCC conducted a legal review of its policies, leading to yesterday's decision to permit the screening and last week's decision to lift the requirement that a college official attend all student group meetings.

"This is a victory for free speech, students' rights, and common sense," noted FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. "IRCC had a rule that treated college students like children, but it has shown the courage to admit it was wrong. We are pleased that this case has been successfully resolved and would be happy to advise IRCC administrators if they have any questions about how best to demonstrate their respect for the rights of their students in the future," he concluded.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. OK to Show "The Passion of the Christ" at Community College:
  2. Community College Bars R-Rated Movies,