Damnation allowed, regulated on campus


Grace Turner

Ken Fleck, the person who grabbed a lot of students’ attention on campus Wednesday, Sept. 21 as he preached, gets mocked by a student.

A man informed a crowd of Oakland students that they were going to hell.

While controversial, he had every right to do so.

Carrying a battered black Bible and standing on a bench in the grassy area between the Oakland Center and library, Ken Fleck spoke on Wednesday, Sept. 21 about how he was saved after he found Jesus, dissing other religions in the process.

He preached from about noon to 5 p.m., according to Lieutenant Terry Ross from the Oakland University Police Department (OUPD).

Nancy Anderson Schmitz, assistant dean of students, knew that his words could cause emotional reactions and called OUPD to monitor the event.

Outside groups who want to preach, demonstrate, sell something or petition on campus must obtain approval at the Office of the Dean of Students, Schmitz said. Fleck hadn’t checked in, so Schmitz asked him to. He ignored her until OUPD got involved.

Fleck was back outside soon after complying with campus regulations.

According to Cam Evans, a First Amendment attorney who teaches media law at Oakland, the university is a limited public forum, where First Amendment rights can be exercised under certain conditions. The university can put restrictions in place based on the time of speech, place of speech and manner of speech.

The Office of the Dean of Students has a packet that outlines policies for free speech. Its goal is “to notify the community about the appropriate time, place and manner in which individuals may solicit, distribute or sell information, goods and services to others on University property and in University buildings.”

Oakland can refuse permission to individuals who impede university activity or don’t follow the guidelines in the packet. They can also refuse permission for other special circumstances.

The packet also outlines where individuals may stand while distributing information. Fleck was not in one of the approved areas, but Schmitz gave him permission to stay where he started out.

First Amendment rights applied to everyone in the situation. Some students took advantage and argued with Fleck. One student stood behind him and mocked his gestures, giving him bunny ears when The Oakland Post pointed a camera in his direction.

“I forgive all y’all for laughing at me, for calling me names,” Fleck said.

Physical confrontation went too far – one student threw some water at Fleck. OUPD stepped in immediately.

“I should press charges against that man,” said Fleck of the student to the crowd. “But I forgive him.”

Even so, Officer Bradley Beldo from OUPD, who helped monitor the event, said they might have to pursue consequences for the student.

This is not the first time Fleck has been on campus. Beldo said this was his fourth or fifth year making an appearance.

“He’s a regular on campus,” Beldo said.

The crowd swallowed a bake sale put on by the Chaldean American Student Association, which shared the space with Fleck from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E-board members from the association didn’t confront Fleck.