Identity of Speakers
Richard Hershey was a vegan activist who attempted to hand out literature on Lehman College’s campus.
Incident Political Orientation:
- No protest Occured
- Did not involve Speech Codes
Lehman College is a public university that is part of the City University of New York. On May 16, 2011, Richard Hershey, a vegan activist who was not affiliated with the University, began to hand out leaflets on the main public walkway inside of Lehman’s campus. Shortly after Hershey began, he was approached by a campus safety officer, who informed him that he needed permission from the administration to hand out leaflets on campus. Pursuant to Hershey’s request, the officer took Hershey to the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs, Vincent Zucchetto, in order to obtain permission to continue his activities on campus. Zucchetto refused Hershey’s request and refused to provide him with a written version of the school’s policy on handing out leaflets. Zucchetto them informed Hershey that he “had permission to hand out his booklets on the sidewalk outside any of the college’s gates.”
Pursuant to Zucchetto’s directive, Hershey began to hand out booklets outside of the main gate to Lehman’s campus. The area was comprised of a public sidewalk and a small driveway that led into the college’s campus. The area generated a significant amount of foot traffic, and Hershey was able to successfully distribute his booklets outside of Lehman’s campus. Ten minutes after Hershey began, he was again approached by members of campus security, who told him that he was “not allowed to leaflet there” and directed him to move several yards down the block next to a food truck in order to continue his activities. Hershey refused, stating that the suggested area was far too narrow and that he was diametrically opposed to handing out booklets about veganism next to a food cart that sold meat. Hershey then told the officer that the area was a public sidewalk and that he was “within his rights to leaflet where he had been leafleting.” Another public safety officer again ordered Hershey to move, and when Hershey refused, he was surrounded and then arrested for trespass. After Hershey was arrested, cited, and released, he again began to pass out literature in the same area. In order to ensure that he would not be arrested he contacted the New York City Police Department, who sent an officer to Hershey and informed him that he was allowed to hand out literature and that he would “have a word with campus public safety officers.” Hershey was able to proceed without incident. The trespass charge against Hershey was eventually dismissed after College officials “failed to file legally acceptable accusatory instruments with [the] court.” Despite this, based on a College officials’ representation that the College planned on pursuing the matter, Lehman had to travel from his native St. Louis to New York in order to appear in court.
On May 15, 2012, Hershey filed a § 1983 suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against various college administrators and public safety officers alleging that the College had violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when officers prohibited him from handing out leaflets on campus and outside of the campus gates. He additionally alleged various state law claims related to his arrest. On April 9, 2013, the district court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the claim. The court held that the College grounds were a limited public forum, and thus Hershey had failed to allege that the college had violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when administrators refused to allow him to pass out literature on campus. However, the court refused to dismiss Hershey’s claim that College officials had violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they arrested him for engaging in speech on a public sidewalk. The case was settled on May 17, 2013, after Lehman College agreed to pay Hershey $45,000 in exchange for dismissing all present and future litigations against the College.