The End of Free Speech “Zones”?

 

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Are “free speech zones” dying?  Recent events seem to suggest so.  For many years now, colleges have used the zone as a way to regulate free speech.  By putting small zones in obscure areas of campus, administrators have sought to make free speech irrelevant.  Many times use the of zone is also regulated.  My favorite example of this type of Orwellian control happened in California when a student could not hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution because he had not “reserved” use of the free speech zone.  See his encounter here.

But in the past few months, there seems to be a reverse in the trend in using the zone.  A great example is in Tennessee.  In May the Tennessee legislature passed the Campus Free Speech Protection Act (Senate Bill 723).  The bill, which the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) was an advisor, won huge support in the legislature.  Among other things it prohibited the dreaded zone on public colleges, and adopted the University of Chicago’s Free Speech Policy Statement.

In North Carolina East Carolina University recently amended its policy after a student sought the help of Alliance Defending Freedom.  The campus was subsequently given a “green light” status by FIRE.  North Carolina now has six colleges with a “green light” status making it the state with the most campuses with this status. Read the article from ADF here.

If you are a student or ministry having trouble with free speech issues, I encourage you to contact ADF or FIRE for help.

If you would like to hear an attorney with ADF talk about free speech issues on campus click here.

If you would like to hear Ed Russ discuss a student’s lawsuit against North Carolina State University for blocking religious free speech click here.

To find your school rating click here.

Free Speech Report for 2017

FIRE (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education) came out with its “Spot Light on Free Speech Codes 2017” report back in December of 2016.  If you have not had a chance to read it, you can go here and read the report.  The good news is that FIRE found a large decline in colleges and universities with a RED speech code rating (the worst rating), but the bad news is that there are still a large number with the YELLOW or RED rating overall.  Also worrisome is the large and growing “bias reporting protocols.”  As FIRE says in its report:

The protocols often also infringe on students’ right to due process, allowing for anonymous reporting that denies students the right to confront their accusers. Moreover, universities are often heavily invested in these bias incident policies, having set up entire regulatory frameworks and response protocols devoted solely to addressing them.

I encourage you to read the report and look up your college or university to see what its rating is.  Don’t think that this problem is always somewhere else.  Here in North Carolina a religious RSO (recognized student organization) had to bring a lawsuit against NC State University for prohibiting students from sharing the Gospel using its “non-solicitation” policy.  The student RSO won.  But it had to go to court.

If you would like to hear this story click here to listen to the No Campus Left podcast in iTunes. The RSO was represented by ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom).  You can also hear from the attorney representing the students here.