Pop quiz: Which of the following school policies are constitutional?
- Grand Valley State University – students can engage in free speech in a specific area that makes up 0.03% of campus.
- Yuba College – students can speak freely on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the hours of noon to 1:00 pm on campus – as long as they receive permission two weeks in advance.
- Paradise Valley Community College – students can engage in free speech from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday in a specific area of campus—if they ask permission ahead of time.
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) – students can request permission to engage in free-speech activities in a designated area of campus.
- None of the above.
If you answered “e” to the question above, you are correct. Speech zones are unconstitutional.
Alliance Defending Freedom is dedicated to challenging unconstitutional restrictions on student speech at America’s universities. And the attorneys who work at the ADF Center for Academic Freedom have successfully challenged speech zone policies at each of the universities listed above, including SIUE, where the officials recently agreed to change their policies.
The policies at SIUE were especially egregious, and students had to jump through several hoops just to engage in their constitutional freedoms:
- Students at SIUE wishing to engage in free speech activities were only permitted to do so on a 905-square-foot area, or .0013% of campus. And even that small area was not accessible to students at all times.
- Students had to receive permission before using the speech zone. That permission relied on the university officials, who had no written criteria to guide them in their determination. That means university officials could have denied certain student groups the opportunity to use the speech zone if they don’t like the message.
- Students had to request approval 90 days in advance if they wanted to host a major event outside of the speech zone. On top of that, university officials could have determined that certain events are too “controversial” and charge the student group security fees. Or they could have rejected the request altogether.
That’s why the College Republicans chapter on campus decided to challenge the policies. In doing so, they helped to make a positive difference on campus that has lasting implications.
If university students watch their officials censor viewpoints they don’t like, students learn that the best way to deal with viewpoints they disagree with is to silence them. On the other hand, if they learn how to interact constructively with different ideas and viewpoints on a campus open to free speech, that will inform their actions as they leave college and enter society.
Today’s students will be tomorrow’s voters, legislators, and judges, and a proper understanding of how the First Amendment works is crucial.
Because the College Republicans at SIUE took a stand and reached out to ADF, the new SIUE policies will promote that understanding for current and future students.