University Called The Police When A College Alumnus Read His Bible On Campus

Written by K. Walker on May 14, 2018

This bro boldly challenged the school’s new rules on speech. Here’s the 411.

Bruce Kothmann, an alumnus of the University of Virginia was disturbed when he read the new restrictions on outside groups speaking on campus. Interestingly, ‘outside groups’ includes alumni.

So, he took his Bible and started reading out loud on the steps of the Rotunda — a place that the university has deemed off-limits to outside groups.

A police officer approached Bruce Kothmann as he read from Isaiah 40, to explain that such activity is no longer allowed at the public university. Even if he had sought permission in advance, the Rotunda is not one of the places the university has designated for public speech by outsiders. Kothmann had come to campus because his daughter had just finished her sophomore year. He took his Bible with him to challenge the school’s new policy limiting speech by outsiders on campus.

“To say a single alumnus or group of alumni cannot gather anywhere on the grounds of the university to speak,” Kothmann said, “that seems like an overreaction to ensure a safe environment for students. . . . I want the school to keep being a school that says free speech is important — especially a university founded by Thomas Jefferson.”

The catalyst for the new rules goes back to last August when a ‘Unite the Right’ rally of white supremacists marched on the school’s Lawn and at the Rotunda with tiki torches chanting ‘Jews will not replace us!’ This was just before the confrontation between white supremacists and various groups opposing them in Charlottesville, VA.

Kothmann’s daughter, Julia, was receiving photos of the march on campus on her phone while she was at the beach with her family.

The Kothmann family, a Jewish family filled with U-VA graduates and students, was shocked with the images. Bruce Kothmann is now a professor of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate degree at U-VA, but his Master’s Degree is from Pennsylvania State, and his PhD is from Princeton.

The university sought to crack down on this kind of speech with some new rules on who can speak on campus and where they could do it.

But last week, when Bruce Kothmann read U-Va.’s new rules, crafted in the months after the white-supremacist rally, he was concerned.

Teresa Sullivan, the university’s president, wrote to the campus community last week. “The University of Virginia is committed to the constitutional principle of free speech and to the safety and security of every member of this community,” she wrote. “The university has issued a revised policy regarding the time, place, and manner of expressive activity by unaffiliated persons meeting outdoors.”

The university’s definition of “unaffiliated” people includes alumni. The policy requires such people to make reservations at least a week before they want to speak publicly or hand out information, restricts groups to 25 or 50 people, permits two hours of speech, and designates nine areas on campus where such events are allowed.

The problem is, the sites the University identified as fine for speech aren’t at the heart of the university.

But those sites don’t include the heart of the university, Kothmann said; the designated sites wouldn’t be the most effective places to spread a message. He said he believes there is a fundamental principle at stake. The Jeffersonian tradition is to allow people to express even unwelcome ideas, Kothmann said. “You answer speech with speech. . . . That’s the antidote to damaging speech.”

“At some point, a group of people assembled to speak is a mob.” But, he said, “I don’t think this is the right policy to make that distinction.”

Kothmann decided to speak to university officials about the policy in person.

So he grabbed his Bible bound in black leather as he left his home near Philadelphia and drove to Charlottesville. Once there, he tried to speak with university officials about his concerns. And he told people in the general counsel’s office he would challenge the policy Tuesday afternoon on the Rotunda steps.

He read Psalms 121 and 122 and had begun a passage from Isaiah when a police officer arrived and politely began explaining the new rules. Kothmann videotaped their interaction and voluntarily left campus because he didn’t want to get arrested. University officials confirmed that the video he shared happened at U-Va.

“In accordance with university policy, any unaffiliated person who engages in public speaking on outdoor university property without properly reserving one of the designated locations will be asked to make a reservation,” university spokesman Wesley Hester said. “The university’s time, place, and manner policy applies to all unaffiliated persons who are engaged in public speaking, regardless of content.”

He said the policy changes are designed to provide a framework for unaffiliated people “to peacefully assemble and engage in constitutionally permissible speech at the university.”

Julia Kothmann said that students had little reaction to the new rules, perhaps because they were busy with final exams, or were still upset about the white supremacists that had gathered on campus.

Julia Kothmann was at first a little taken aback by her father’s idea and didn’t want other students to think her family was advocating on behalf of white supremacists. But she is a strong believer in protecting the right to free expression, even when the ideas expressed are controversial, and said the campus is a place where listening to opposing viewpoints is valued. “I give the administrators credit for creating that culture at U-Va. — that’s so important for growth and learning,” she said.

A few days after the violence in August, thousands of people filled the Lawn with candlelight, sending a message of love to reclaim the space. “We want to preserve the right of people to do that,” Julia Kothmann said.
Source: Washington Post

Watch the interaction with Bruce Kothmann and the police officers:

That is exactly the right thing to do.

Kothmann even called the police to notify them what he was planning on doing.

Examine the rules, question the rules, and when it’s called for, rebel against those that have decided to become tyrants.

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ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll and on Gettr @KarenWalker