Attorney Shawn Steel answers questions from audience and student panel regarding videotaping in the classroom (Alyssa Hayes /Lariat)
The Associated Student Government along with the Pre-Law Society hosted the second installment of their #useyourvoice series on campus. The #useyourvoice series is intended for students at Saddleback College to gain a better understanding of the First Amendment, and what changes and challenges technology has on First Amendment rights.
“In order to provide open and respectful discussions surrounding free speech at Saddleback, I am very pleased to provide information on four community workshops that will focus on the First Amendment and how it impacts our community,” said Tod Burnett, President of Saddleback College.
Tuesday afternoons event featured Attorney Shawn Steel. Steel is a contributing writer to Breitbart, a Republican National Committeeman, and an attorney specializing in personal injury lawsuits. Steel has also taken on pro bono cases for students who feel their civil rights have been violated, most recently, students assaulted during the Pro Trump rally at University of California Berkeley. The pro bono cases he is taking on are going after any student, faculty, or just any person who is violating the civil rights of conservatives.
“There is a menace in America right now attacking people with different points of view,” said Steel.
The main focus of Tuesday’s series was videotaping in the classroom.
“Many students have questions, especially when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed while at school,” said Lucy Hendrix, president of the Associated Student Government.
In most classrooms, recording is prohibited unless the student has been given prior consent.
“Silencing information is so antiquated, it only can exist in a totalitarian society,” said Steel.
In November Steel filed a complaint with Orange Coast College President Dennis Harkins against Olga Perez Stable Cox, after she was recorded saying that the election of Donald Trump was an “act of terrorism” and referred to Vice President as “one of the most anti-gay humans in the country.” Steel’s complaint claims Cox used hate speech and violated the civil rights of the students who supported Trump by forcing them to identify themselves in a degrading manner.
Steel likened the Education Code created by the California Department to not always stopping at every stop sign when riding a bike inferring that if a law is stupid, it doesn’t need to be followed. This became a topic of contention when a faculty member in the audience held up a copy of the Education Code and asked Steel which codes should be ignored.
The Student panel had a list of questions from the audience as well as from themselves for Steel regarding the infringement of First Amendment rights while on campus. Mariam El Hasan, president of the Model United Nations, and one of the panel members asked Steel if teachers should be given a warning if they are going to be recorded. Steel responded by giving everyone explicit permission and encouragement to record, claiming that teachers should expect to be recorded. Although he did have specific criteria when asked if he would defend any student caught recording a professor.
“If it is a matter of personal belief and they are conservative,” said Steel.
The contentious nature of this topic is what inspired Associated Student Government president Lucy Hendrix to create this series.
“I think that free speech will always be somewhat of a contentious issue on college campuses, but it has become an increasingly hot topic since the election,” said Hendrix.
The remaining 2 events in the #useyourvoice series will be Tuesday, March 14 from 2-4 pm in the quad. This talk will present an overview of state free speech laws and what generally constitutes protected speech. The panel will feature Warren S. Kinsler, and Sharon Ormond of Atinkson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd and Romo professional Law Corporation.
Tuesday, March 28 from 2-4 pm in SM 313. This discussion will focus on the differences between free speech and academic freedom, as well as the first amendment from a national perspective. The speaker will be UCI Law School Founding Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.