The Saddleback College YAF Chapter located in Mission Viejo in South Orange County, planned to engage in a 9/11 Never Forget activism event, with a display of 2977 flags: one for every life lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The executive board for the club reached out to administrators in order to officially book the event for Monday, Sept. 12, the same date that other nearby schools like Cal State Fullerton, Chapman, and Orange Coast College plan to hold similar events.
However, Saddleback College’s administration replied informing them that groundskeeper would have to be amply notified, that 2977 flags would be too many compared to the 160 the Veterans Council would place, and that the event must take place at a designated free speech zone.
In previous years, the Veterans’ Council at Saddleback College held a memorial commemorating the victims of 9/11, but this year, they did not plan such an event, so Saddleback YAF chose to take on the mantle and hold a 9/11 commemoration event themselves.
Members of the Saddleback Young Americans for Freedom disagreed with the administration’s decision.
“The administrators said that the bureaucracy keeps clubs in line, but if these issues were so important, they could have spoken to those they needed to speak to, such as the groundskeeper,” said Thomas Columbus, Treasurer of Saddleback YAF (and Refined Right contributor.) “However, instead of swift action, there was merely stonewalling and delay.”
“The constitution and bylaws have not changed since last year, and last year they didn’t have a problem with us,” said Saddleback YAF chapter chair Audra Leslie. “They only have a problem now that we are trying to hold an event, which shows how colleges seek to stop conservative organizations from holding events on campus.”
Saddleback YAF decided to hold their 9/11 event anyway, holding in on Sept. 8, as opposed to the initial plan of holding it on Monday, out of concern the administration would proactively shut them down. At dawn, ten students gathered and posted the 2977 flags on a patch of grass to commemorate the lives of the victims of 9/11 and terrorism. They also brought a graphic showing the threat of terrorism all over the world, with images of various terrorist attacks, such as the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando earlier this year.
A Saddleback College faculty member took down the posters displayed by the YAF chapter. The faculty member was revealed to be Professor Margot Lovett, the chair of Saddleback’s history department. She defended her actions by claiming the First Amendment “didn’t protect the right of a club to hang posters on campus.” The school defended Professor Lovett’s actions by claiming posters could only be hung at a “free speech zone” on campus. According to Smith v. Navajo Unified School District (2007), a public school like Saddleback College is not permitted to censor a student’s free speech unless the intention of the speech is to incite disruption.
“When we were searching for a faculty advisor last year, many professors were hesitant to help us just based solely on the fact that they were fearful of the backlash they would receive from colleagues and administration based on their views,” Columbus told Refined Right, “Regressive leftism is a strong force at most colleges in the country, and it is no different here at Saddleback. The administration seeks to halt conservatives from expressing their voice on campus, and even went far enough to bar a memorial for the victims of 9/11.”
This incident comes just one day after conservative students at another California school, UC Berkeley, faced an attack on their table by students who vandalized their Donald Trump cutout and had a physical altercation with one of the members of the Berkeley College Republicans.
The Saddleback Young Americans for Freedom have stated they will work with their parent organization, Young America’s Foundation, to overturn free speech zone regulations like the ones on their own campus, will work to “make the whole school a free speech zone,” and make the campus friendlier to diverse philosophical viewpoints. They have also stated that they are glad they were able to remember the lives lost on 9/11, and look further to more activism and events in the future.