On November 28, 2017, Joliet Junior College (JJC) student, Ivette Salazar was reportedly detained briefly by campus police for distributing flyers on campus.
According to media sources, Ms. Salazar distributed flyers that read “Shut Down Capitalism” from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, apparently in response to anti-socialism materials distributed by a campus conservative group. Ms. Salazar was reported by campus staff and then taken into custody at the campus police station where she was questioned. According to Ms. Salazar, officers told her that she could not distribute her flyers because of the “political climate of the country,” and that, “if you want to go ahead and post your flyers and burn your crosses, you have to get it approved.” Her flyers were then confiscated by campus police because she did not receive prior approval from the college’s Office of Student Activities.
JJC issued a statement regarding the incident, stating: “The policies of Joliet Junior College promote and nurture open and accessible dialogue of ideas on campus. These policies not only support a culture of free speech but ensure that the college maintains a campus environment accepting of such a dialogue in the process. The college believes these policies appropriately balance these tenets and interests of all involved.” The college’s policy requires that students secure approval five days prior for the use of the “free speech” area on campus and that no more than two people are allowed in the area and must remain behind a table or divider provided for use. Additionally, the college must approve any literature or flyers that are posted on campus. Ms. Salazar sued JJC following the incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a student in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of freedom of expression on campus — conduct which is expressly protected under the United States Constitution and international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Such actions not only impact the immediate victim, but undermine academic freedom and the ability of higher education communities to serve their educational and social functions.