On October 4, 2019, Utah Valley University made a student remove a display while recruiting for a Second Amendment club.
During a video taken by Jacob Hibbard, a regional field coordinator for the Leadership Institute, an unidentified member of UVU event services went up to student Sarah Clark and informed her that organizations are required to schedule a table before setting up any kind of “structure” according to the school’s free speech policy. The university defines these “structures” as “Any object (other than objects such as handbills, signs, small lawn signs, notices and posters, armbands, or personal attire) used in expressing views or opinions, including but not limited to booths, buildings, billboards, banners, large lawn signs, and similar displays.”
Hibbard informed Campus Reform that he was using his own personal table at the public university based in Orem, Utah.
The school policy states that “prior to the erection of any non-commercial structure, a person or organization must obtain a permit from the Campus Scheduling Office for each proposed structure.”
A video of the incident can be found here:
“I wasn’t surprised when they came to shut us down,” Clark commented. “UVU buries students in paperwork just to get a table. It’s impossible to get a club chartered if you don’t already have students, which is tricky when you don’t know if there’s an interest for a group on campus.”
According to UVU’s club forms, in order to start a club, each group has to have at least six members.
Clark also mentioned that it is difficult for UVU students to meet others who hold similar views, thanks to these restrictive organization policies.
“Tabling between the hours of 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM are really common,” Clark told Campus Reform. “UVU is a commuter school, so most students are on campus.”
The bill also stipulates “an institution may maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on expressive activity in an outdoor area of the institution’s campus.”
“Three groups were tabling at the same time, but we were the only ones outside,” Clark recollected.
The UVU student claimed that she was tabling on the sidewalk near the parking lot and that she was behaving within the confines of the law.
“UVU’s campus is almost 100 percent indoors, they have [a] monopoly over all decent tabling areas indoors, and I don’t see the problem with allowing students to congregate outdoors to gauge interest with other like-minded students,” Clark told Campus Reform. “I started a Turning Point USA chapter back in 2017, and it was like pulling teeth. I was a new student to campus and wanted to make sure we had a presence, but finding students without tabling was nearly impossible.”
“It took almost a month and a half to gather enough student ID’s to charter the club, but as soon as we could get a table, membership boomed. The table is essential to getting a student’s attention and boosting conservative presence on campus.”
Even in red states like Utah, universities will try to undermine any form of right wing discourse.
Conservative activists must recognize that their opposition is virtually everywhere and they must be ready to fight back, lest they want to get muzzled.