Philadelphia already has some of the most stringent limits on public gatherings in the country (limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors). But because of an outbreak among some of Philadelphia’s roughly 450,000 college students, the City doubled down and imposed a total and complete ban on student gatherings of any size. Temple University dutifully followed the City’s lead and announced that students would be required “to avoid all social gatherings” and that violators could face suspension or expulsion from campus.
This policy would be problematic at any time. Students do not give up their constitutional rights when they enroll at Temple University. But this policy is even more troubling right now, in the middle of a national election. The student gathering policy is also troublingly vague and unclear and could result in punishment for students if they attend church or canvas on behalf of a political candidate.
Enforcement of this new policy will violate the First Amendment rights of students all across Philadelphia.
Accordingly, Pacific Legal Foundation sent a letter to Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney, Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, and Temple University President Richard Englert this week urging them to clarify or rescind the new policy.