UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Fliers posted on campus spark freedom of speech debate

PHOTO: "Blood and Soil" flyer found near Arbor North. Photo courtesy of Dawn Hailey.
“Blood and Soil” flyer found near Arbor North. Photo courtesy of Dawn Hailey.

An organization known as Blood and Soil has been illegally posting fliers around campus that have sparked a discussion about freedom of speech at UHCL. This group has posted two different fliers around campus.

One flier depicts a muscular man clutching the U.S. flag with the phrase, “America. Revolution is Tradition,” while the second flier has the organization’s logo with the phrase “Resurrection through Insurrection.”

Students who came across the fliers removed them and voiced their concerns to Dean of Students David Rachita. Since the fliers were posted on non-regulated structures and were not stamped by the Office of Student Life, which is required for all postings on campus, the students were within their rights to remove the fliers.

The phrase “Blood and Soil” is taken from a slogan used by the original group from Nazi Germany, and The Anti-Defamation League lists Blood and Soil as a hate slogan. Its logo also holds a strong resemblance to the original.

Blood and Soil is was one of the white nationalist groups that attended the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017 that resulted in 20-year-old James Fields driving his car through the counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

While hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, it still proves to be a controversial topic. This controversy, however, is not isolated at UHCL. It has been a hot-button issue on college campuses around the nation.

Some individuals and groups feel that hate speech should not be protected speech and that it has no place on college campuses, while others feel they are not being allowed to exercise their First Amendment right.

This is because some college campuses have not allowed certain groups to speak for fear of it inciting violence. As decided by the Supreme Court ruling of Brandenburg v. Ohio, speech loses its First Amendment protection if it is likely to induce violence.

Freedom of speech under the First Amendment must be upheld on government agencies and public places, including public universities, such as UHCL. Private industries, like corporations, private businesses and universities, have the freedom to exercise their right to censor speech on their property.

“The university adamantly believes in, supports and upholds everyone’s First Amendment right,” Rachita said. “We have to be content neutral, regardless of the university’s opinion on any given issue.”

The university has yet to determine if it is an individual student, a student organization or someone not affiliated with the school, who is posting the Blood and Soil fliers. Regardless, there is a process people must go through before given permission to post fliers on campus. There are also designated places for the approved fliers, and these places differ between those who are affiliated with the university and those who are not.

Some may believe that since UHCL is a public university, people should be able to post what they want where they want, but that is incorrect. Rachita explained that while the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, UHCL has the right to regulate the places people can post for organizational and maintenance sake.

The Blood and Soil fliers, however, did not follow any of these rules. They did not get approval from the Office of Student Life and they are not posted in approved areas. Instead, they were posted on non-regulated structures like building signs and sculptures. Because these fliers were not approved by the Office of Student Life, they can be taken down without question.

Dawn Hailey, an art and design major, threw the flier away when she came across it taped to a sculpture in the Arbor Building.

“I had seen the signs previously at UH Main, and I’m familiar with the recent history of the group,” Haily said. “They participated in the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August, and I know they are a hate group.”

PHOTO: Close up of "Blood and Soil" flyer found outside of Delta Building. Photo courtesy of Dawn Hailey.
Close up of “Blood and Soil” flyer found outside of Delta Building. Photo courtesy of Dawn Hailey.

In addition to the fliers, Blood and Soil has also been posting stickers on lamp posts and walls around campus, which is strictly against the rules.

“The illegal posting of stickers around campus is considered Criminal Mischief under the Texas Penal Code, and the UHCL Police Department will charge anyone found violating this law,” said Allen Hill, chief of police at UHCL.

If the person(s) posting the Blood and Soil fliers followed the Office of Student Life’s guidelines, however, Rachita believes, with modification, like adding contact information and other necessities required by the university, the fliers would have been approved.

Nevertheless, the fliers have sparked a debate amongst UHCL students. Other students who have brought these fliers to Rachita’s attention have also stated their concern of finding these fliers on campus because of their opposition to Blood and Soil’s message. The university is doing its part to ensure equal rights for both sides.

“[The Dean of Students Office], the Student Life Office, and the Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are getting together next week with a couple students to talk about how the students would like to respond to these messages,” Rachita said. “If students ever find a poster or flier that is concerning to them, let us know.”

Freedom of speech, specifically on college campuses, has garnered enough attention that the Texas Attorney General’s office is planning on meeting this summer to publish guidelines for college campuses to use when faced with First Amendment challenges.