Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a pro-liberty organization at Montclair State University, filed a formal complaint against the Montclair State Board of Trustees and Student Government Association alleging that some of the school’s policies are unconstitutional and that three students’ First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
On Sept. 10, 2019, Mathew Botros, Mena Botros and James Pillion were peacefully protesting outside of the Feliciano School of Business on the issue of gun-free zones. The trio wore orange jumpsuits as they pretended to be prisoners and held signs mockingly in support of the ban on firearms in certain areas. Their message was clear: gun-free zones only benefit criminals.
They proposed that gun control laws only hurt law-abiding citizens who carry guns for self-defense. The president of YAL at Montclair State, Mena Botros, said the group chose to forgo the process of requesting a space through the registrar and gaining approval from the standard departments.
A Montclair State police officer, Sergeant Kaluba Chipepo, asked the group to cease their protest and remove their orange jumpsuits. The officer also informed the students that they were violating the Montclair State Speech Permit Policy because they had not obtained permission to speak publicly from the dean’s office.
As per Montclair State’s rules, anyone who wants to speak publicly on campus must obtain permission at least two weeks in advance. The dean’s office will then assign them a time and place to speak.
The Montclair State chapter of YAL is a class four organization of the student government. The group currently has twenty members, all with varying ideological standpoints.
The case file makes the claim that Montclair State’s “Speech Permit Policy thus grants [the Dean of Students] Coleman-Carter and the Office of the Dean of Students unbridled discretion to grant or deny students permission to speak on campus.”
The complaint postulates that the Student Government Association (SGA) allocates student-funded money and other substantial benefits through its “class” system. The YAL argues that Montclair State’s SGA “class” system “implements a seniority system and a discretionary and discriminatory tier system.” The case file attests the existing class system violates students’ rights to due process because “it is unconstitutionally vague.”
The Montclair State board of trustees and SGA told The Montclarion that they hadn’t been served by the complaint, but both provided official statements. The official statement denied any form of violation of their policies.
“We have no reason to think that we have taken any action in violation of our principles or policies,” read the official statement.
Montclair State’s board of trustees says that the current procedures allow for all members of the university’s community to exercise their rights of assembly and speech. The official statement maintains that the existing channels of approval allow the community to “engage in all University organized activities without disruption.”
The SGA said they can “confidently say that [the referenced complaint] mischaracterizes our policies and procedures. Our policies and procedures encourage the formation and growth of student organizations.”