I Stand With Robby- Jack Timmerman

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Albert “Robby” Roberts is not an evangelist. He is a man with strong convictions in his Christian faith. So strong, in fact, that he left his alma mater in Waco, Texas to come to Clemson because God told him that’s where he needed to go. Since this bold move, Robby has touched the hearts and minds of countless college students and bar-goers. He can often be found in Downtown Clemson on the weekends listening to Christian music on his iPhone. That is, if he isn’t giving prayer or striking up conversation with anyone fortunate enough to cross paths with him. He knew that he had a purpose coming to Clemson, but could never have imagined the events that would unfold this academic year. On the Thursday of August 25th, he was approached by a university official who proceeded to interrupt a prayer between himself and a student who just so happened to be an advocate for free speech.

The official cited Facility Use Policy 3.2. In summary, the policy states that you have free speech, but the university may put restrictions on time, place and manner on its facilities. The vice president of student affairs or a designee is in charge of these restrictions for non-students and non-university affiliates. These groups or individuals must submit a reservation 72 hours in advance to reserve these spaces, and will be approved on the availability of these spaces. Priority will be given to individuals/groups affiliated with the university. The university reserves its right to use security at its discretion. Speech and assembly must remain in this designated area, and must not infringe on any other individual’s/organization’s speech, damage property, or endanger anyone around them.

This Facility Use Policy does not allow Clemson University to infringe on anyone’s first amendment right, or be discriminatory “on the basis of political, religious, social or other content”. Yet Clemson administration cited this policy as they threatened to remove Mr. Roberts from a public area that does not fall under their jurisdiction, citing solicitation when he did nothing of the sort.

To solicit is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1. To ask for (something, such as money or help) from people, companies, etc.
2. To ask (a person or group) for money, help, etc.
3. To offer to have sex with (someone) in return for money

Roberts’s actions don’t adhere to the university’s definitions of solicitation either, as he did not “inform, induce or encourage individuals or groups to purchase, rent, lease, or use (or not purchase, rent, lease, or use) any goods or services”. He had no intentions of making any money, let alone material gain. His intentions were to provide prayer or a listening ear only to those who sought him out. Legally, Robby did nothing wrong; the University wrongly enforced its own arbitrary policies on him.
In order to be consistent with current laws regarding public spaces and First Amendment rights, the University should recognize any open space outside as public forums where people can have platforms to speak. According to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), “Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), it has been settled in the law that public parks—since they are held in trust for the public and have traditionally been used for assembly, communication, and public discussion—are ‘traditional’ public forums. Other examples include public streets and sidewalks.” A university policy consistent with federal laws would be able to reserve platforms within their own buildings to their own discretion. In doing so, they would not be violating anyone’s rights to public assembly.
In conclusion, the university was wrong in handling Robby’s situation. More importantly, the university is wrong to put to use such policies that infringe on individuals’ first amendment rights and counter to the legal way of handling public spaces. Individuals should #standwithrobby regardless of what he was saying, because his right to say it is something we all should stand for.

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sign students and supporters held at prayer ralley