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Cal Poly Student Sues University Over Free Speech Dispute

POMONA ( — Cal Poly Pomona must now pay a costly settlement after a student sued the school over being told he could not hand out pamphlets without a permit.

25-year-old nutrition student Nicolas Tomas was handing out pamphlets on campus in February to promote Veganism and criticize the treatment of farm animals. He says he was then told he needed a permit to be able to do so.

"I was baffled and I was very discouraged and disappointed that a university would discourage free speech," Tomas said.

Tomas recorded his discussion with the officer on a cell phone, as he stood in an area of campus known as the "Free Speech" zone.

Student Affairs Vice President Dr. Rebecca Gutierrez Keeton says the school doesn't restrict free speech to a single spot, and says that what happened was a simple misunderstanding.

"We have separate policies of off-campus solicitors versus on-campus students," Dr. Keeton said.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sued the university on Tomas' behalf, settling the case for $35,000 in damages and attorney fees.

Cal Poly also agreed to retrain its faculty and police department on the expansion of free speech.

"If he had walked into my office and said 'you know, I think there are some misunderstandings, why was I told this', I could have changed the policy in five minutes and saved the state of California thirty-five thousand dollars," Dr. Keeton said.


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