In November, Philips, who resides in Tiger Hall, was asked to remove a Ron Paul campaign banner from his dorm window. Philips is now claiming that this request is an example of unconstitutional selective censorship because other students are still permitted to hang banners in their windows.
“Well, I noticed everybody else hanging banners, at least in the sororities and some people inside my dorm with Auburn banners in their window,” Philips said. “There’s a sorority literally right across from me, right across the sidewalk. I look out my window and for all of October I saw this huge Halloween banner that was three times the size of my Ron Paul banner.
“I figured there’s no rules against it, and as an effort to help support Ron Paul’s campaign, me and three other people purchased a Ron Paul banner to hang up in my window.”
Philips said he hung the banner inside his window so that it would be visible from the outside.
“So when we did that I looked up the rules to see if it was OK, and the rules that I read and … what I understood to be the case was that you could hang things inside your window, not outside,” Philips said. “If the RA finds it inappropriate, though, they’ll tell you to take it down.”
Philips said he was informed by his RA that the policy had been changed over the summer. The new policy specifies that dorm residents may not display any items in their windows.
Article 1.4.5 in the 2011–2012 Guide to Residential Living states: “Hanging or displaying items such as flags, banners, decals, or signs out of or obstructing residence hall windows is prohibited.”
“But obviously they don’t enforce that policy completely,” Philips said. “You know, you can walk around The Hill and even see girls putting their sororities up in their window and ‘let it snow’ in their window. There’s even in my own dorm, there’s a picture of a skull, or a decal of a skull, in the window.”
Philips said he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and provided them with information and photographic evidence about his case.
FIRE then used the information provided by Philips to write a letter to University President Jay Gogue about the possibility of unconstitutional censorship on campus.
Philips said FIRE did receive a response from the University.
“They pretty much said that they’re not going to change their policy and that they’re going to equally enforce the no banner policy,” Philips said. “But I haven’t seen much of a difference in that.”
Philips said his belief in the lacking enforcement of the policy prompted FIRE to send a second letter to Gogue.
“Also, with that letter that we wrote to Jay Gogue this time around we’ve had multiple people now writing letters to Dr. Jay Gogue,” Philips said. “You can see it on Facebook. I’ve had friends and even people I don’t know putting it on their wall, telling people to take action, to write a letter to Dr. Gogue. So we’ll see how that goes.”
“I can tell you that Auburn University is committed to uniformly enforcing policies,” said Amy Hecht Macchio, assistant vice president of Student Affairs.
Macchio said any questions regarding the policy and its implementation would be best addressed to Housing and Residence Life.
Representatives from Housing and Residence Life were unavailable for comment.
Philips said his goal is for the current policy to not be enforced. He said his goal is not to have the policy enforced at all.
“I don’t want to make people take their banners down, but I just want to be able to express my support for Ron Paul as a presidential candidate just as well as people express their support for Auburn football or sororities or socials that are coming up,” Philips said. “So I just want to be able to equally express myself.”
Philips said he hopes to make his case even more public now that it has received some attention.
“I was on the front page of a number of websites when the article first came out in December, and now we’re going to try to get some attention from the local media,” Philips said.
“Maybe write a press release to NBC or something, get them to come out and talk to me, because this is obviously unconstitutional to selectively censor certain speech, specific expressions.”