1st Amendment optional at Sinclair Community College

Apparently, Sinclair Community College is not part of the United States, nor does it have to follow the law of the land. David Sparks of the Dayton Informer posted today that he was run off the Sinclair Community College courtyard by the campus police when setting up his camera. When he went to the “business office” the employees there were unable to explain if the First Amendment would protect his right as a citizen and a journalist to do man-on-the-street interviews.

Apparently, even though Sinclair Community College is paid for with your tax dollars and belongs to all of us, as a public institution of “higher learning” they’ve failed to learn the law.

This is no different than Mike Turner’s arrest of a silent protester (me) at a public meeting so many years ago.

Is the Sinclair Community College campus courtyard a Free Speech with Approval Zone?

via Dayton Informer Prevented from Filming in Sinclair Courtyard | The Dayton Informer.

There is a reason it’s the First Amendment. In case the people at Sinclair need a refresher- it’s pretty short and simple:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

it’s time the people of the region start questioning why these people who work for us seem to think they operate with a different set of laws than the rest of us and why they still have jobs.

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16 Comments on "1st Amendment optional at Sinclair Community College"

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To my knowledge even tho Sinclair gets some public funding it is still a private company making the campus private property. Could be wrong tho.

David Sparks

Slight correction: the Sinclair Police were not able to answer the question as to whether the Sinclair policy on getting approval to do man in the street reporting trumps the first amendment. I did call the Sinclair Ombudsman today to complain about the incident, and they could not answer whether or not their policy trumps the first amendment either, but that they were looking into the situation and would get back with me. I am also registered for classes there this quarter.

That said, what I was doing was completely harmless. Policies like this are nothing more than shadow dressing for protecting institutional public relations instead of the constitution. They are also merely intimidation for the act of free speech. The officers have a duty to protect my first amendment rights first and above all else, which they failed to do. 


A couple of other observations:

Sinclair is not a university, it’s a community college.  Not that it makes a difference in this case, but I love precision.

If Sparks was not creating an unsafe condition or interfering with the normal functions of the college, then my understanding of state law is that citizens may use the campus freely; in fact it’s my understanding (as a community college professor, tho’ not at Sinclair) that citizens may sit in on classes if there’s an open seat and if they are orderly.

My conclusion is that the Sinclair cops, like many college and university cops, are ill-trained and prone to bullying.  It would do the public some good if colleges and universities were required to remit their campus police budgets to the local police force and allow the properly-trained public officers to police the campuses.  The local forces aren’t perfect, of course, but they’d be far more professional than the Barney Fifes who populate campus copdom.  I’ve met quite a few campus officers who were thorough professionals, but I’ve also met far too many who were a disgrace to the uniform.

Ice Bandit

Apparently, even though Sinclair Community College is paid for with your tax dollars and belongs to all of us, as a public institution of “higher learning” they’ve failed to learn the law. (David Esrati)
…yeah and hellyeah. And since the same holds true for the White House, the Old Bandito is gonna’ demand he be allowed to practice his right of petition from the Lincoln Bedroom…

Kim Owens

I work at Wright State and approval is required from the university before anything outside of the standard approved campus activities can occur. The Gideons are even allowed to come here to pass out Bibles once a year, which to me seems to lack a separation of church and state.

David Sparks

This is an example of what I was attempting to do, basic man or woman on the street questions.

I’m waiting back from SCC to see what they say. If they say I must get approval and permits, then I am in consultation with constitutional lawyers and will decide where to go from there. If I can get a defense fund together or receive ACLU backing, then I will challenge the regulations by going ahead and filming, and being arrested (or more likely, cited with a ticket).

More and more public entities are claiming private property rights to justify regulations that are more restrictive than the First Amendment in order to squash or reign in free speech, which is patently un-American, and un-patriotic.


Sinclair does not allow solicitors on campus, this is the prime reason (in my understanding) for granting permission.  It is one of the only ways to provide the police with a policy to remove certain people from campus.  There have been many groups on campus that have been offensive to me personally.  But they have a right to be here and that is that.  As a former student I called the Business office to complain and was told “they have a constitutional right to be here.”  As with most things, there is a process, just because there is a process does not mean they are denying anyone the right to anything.

another Jeff
another Jeff

It might be an issue with FERPA – it would be a stretch but that’s a big concern at SCC on pretty much all levels.

I agree that it’s a bit silly that they won’t let you interview willing subjects, but I’m not sure I see how it’s really a violation of the 1st Amendment.  Are you suggesting that interviewing someone on camera counts as protected speech?  As journalism?  I’m not a Constitutional scholar by any means, so I’m sorry if this is an established precedent; this “my first amendment rights are being violated!” outcry just seems to be a bit much.


I basically agree with another Jeff. Man-in-the-street interviews are not good tests of the First Amendment.
My proudest journalistic moment occurred during a United Steelworkers strike against Huffy Manufacturing in 1962 or 1963. The USW called a meeting in the auditorium of the Mercer County Courthouse and closed it to the press. I went to the auditorium before they did, unscrewed part of the stage, got under the stage with a flashlight. My wife tightened the screws and I heard the entire meeting. Fortunately, the USW used Roberts’ rules and each speaker was identified by name. The next day, the Daily Standard has a dull account of the meeting, including names. A USW officer called me demanding to know who had squealed.
Using the Sinclair example, the USW should not have had the right to close the meeting since it was in the courthouse, but I think the USW had every right to do so. The site alone should not be an excuse to invade privacy (which, of course, I did).


My unqualified understanding is that everyone must ask for permission to solicit on public campuses, even the Gideons.  It’s a simple, respectful procedure to alert the university of your presence… otherwise, you’d have every pyramid schemster and solicitor in town harrassing the captive audience of the entire student body.  And with all the media attention on violence occurring on campuses, perhaps when a student sees a white man with a camera rambling about saggin’ pants, he/she felt threatened and notified the police.  If I were a campus police officer, I’d take any necessary precautions to make sure the students feel safe.
You’re using the free speech defense, but the cited video clip was regarding opinions on “saggin pants,” produced for a website that seems to procure income through advertisements… is that correct?  I sympathize with anyone who genuinely has their free speech rights infringed upon (the City’s silencing of the Occupy movement comes to mind), but it seems a stretch to invoke the first amendment for a money-making venture. 
I watched the “saggin pants” clip… I find it curious that there was a segment with a woman whom you filmed off-camera.  Did she know you were filming her off-camera?  Is there audio of her consent?  Just wondered.


I assume the Dayton Daily News and television stations are also required to identify their presence somehow and/or receive permission to film, although maybe I’m incorrect.


David, saw on Facebook that Sinclair is having a talk about free speech. Just saw this photo and caption. Don’t know any other details. Thought of your filming incident as soon as I saw it.