Constitution trumps college policy

November 13, 2014 Editorials Print Print
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On Friday, Oct. 24, a film production student was stopped at the OCCC Halloween carnival and asked by the Student Life director to delete footage he had taken for a class project. He complied after being told a college policy exists that prohibits filming children without the consent of their parents.

What he didn’t know is video and photography are protected freedoms. In a public setting, a person has the right to document anything or anyone there —including children.

According to aclu.org, “Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right … .”

After perusing the college’s policies at www.occc.edu/policy, I found no policy about photographing children in a public place. Even if there were such a policy, it couldn’t be enforced as policy would never supersede the Constitution.

This incident is an opportunity to better understand our rights. We must exercise them often and stand firm on the principles of upholding them. It’s an incredible responsibility in many ways but it’s also an absolute necessity.

I stand against censorship on all fronts and have a strong distrust for any parties who engage in it.

There is no place for censorship on a college campus no matter how incendiary the material. Freedom of expression is a basic human right. A college employee has no authority to detain a person and certainly does not have the right to seize or destroy anyone’s property.

If someone breaks a law, then it is up to the police to take that person into custody.

And in some cases, if someone violates a school policy, they can be asked to leave, or possibly be escorted off campus — and there may be some punitive action taken academically.

However, no one has the right to destroy your property, especially when that property is protected by the Constitution.

Taking photographs and video is your right under the First Amendment. Photography and video — even when it is not intended to — serves as an important monitor of authorities who may overstep their bounds.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, without a warrant, not even police officers may confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or videos.

Felony charges of obstruction, theft and evidence tampering have been levied at police who have taken or deleted photographs and videos.

The rights of all people are eroded when someone in a perceived position of authority is allowed to violate a person’s rights, even on accident, without recourse.

If indeed a school policy does exist in this case,  I don’t understand its purpose. I worry that under a guise of concern for safety, this policy’s true intent may be to shield officials here from having their events too closely documented or scrutinized. Censorship only makes people more suspicious of things that could, in actuality, be completely innocuous.

When the rights of anyone are restricted like this, everyone’s rights are compromised.

It is in exercising these rights that we preserve them and, as a matter of principle, we should not waive these rights. When we do, everyone loses.

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