A conservative student in Florida says he has the evidence that implicates a public college administrator who last week ordered members of Young Americans for Freedom to leave a campus event after they displayed Heritage Foundation research papers.
Palm Beach State College activities director Olivia Morris-Ford, a Facebook fan of President Barack Obama and filmmaker Michael Moore, booted the conservative students from a rush event. Morris-Ford claimed they didn’t have permission to be on campus.
Her assertion stands in conflict with evidence YAF state chairman Daniel Diaz shared with Heritage. Diaz presented both a June 21 e-mail from student Christina Beattie to Morris-Ford requesting permission to be at the event and Beattie’s phone log from June 23, which shows a call from Morris-Ford. Beattie said Morris-Ford approved the request on that call.
Yet, when Diaz and YAF state vice chairman Eddie Shaffer arrived at the Sept. 7 event with Heritage materials in tow, Morris-Ford took just enough time to see the literature they planned to distribute to tell them to pack up and go home.
The Heritage research materials included “Obama’s Second Stimulus,” “The Unsustainable Welfare State,” “The Obama Tax Hikes” and “Obamacare: Hurting Those Who Need Health Care the Most.”
When Beattie joined Diaz and Shaffer, in a testy exchange caught on video, Morris-Ford said she never talked to Beattie on the phone.
“I need you to move your stuff. Period,” Morris-Ford says on the video. “You are not authorized.”
When contacted at her office, Morris-Ford declined to comment on the incident. “There’s two sides to every story,” she said. “I would love to tell you, but I can’t.”
Other college representatives offered a few more details, but also contradicted each other.
“Basically, they were asked to leave because they were not a campus club,” said Grace Truman, director of relations and marketing for Palm Beach State College.
Don Miller, a campus security guard who was present at the fair, said, “I was there, but nobody got escorted out. … They weren’t even asked to leave.”
Beattie acknowledged she had not yet succeeded at creating an official YAF “campus club.” That was why she requested to attend the fair in the first place. Beattie still plans to apply for official club status, and, thanks to the publicity from the event, plenty of students now want to join, Diaz said.
YAF is also now seeking help from the Alliance Defense Fund. Legal counsel Casey Mattox said the college has questionable policies that, for a public institution, border on unconstitutional.
“This school appears to have a policy that requires any student or any student group to give 24 hours notice to the school before they intend to speak or distribute literature of any kind and then it gives the school complete discretion to decide whether they will permit students to speak or distribute literature or not,” Mattox said. “So if that is, in fact, the policy, and it appears that it is, that’s clearly unconstitutional.”
According to an official statement, Palm Beach State College “unequivocally supports the constitutional right to freedom of speech for … students, faculty, staff and all citizens.” Until college administrators explain this incident and school policy, however, that freedom will remain in question.