Student Can’t Get Straight Answer on School’s ‘Free Speech Zone’ Policy
“hung up on by two administrators”
This is happening at a public school, so technically, the entire campus is a free speech zone.
Campus Reform reports:
College hangs up on student asking about free speech policy
School officials at a public community college in Texas are refusing to clarify the details of its controversial free speech policy despite repeated student inquiries.
Lone Star College has six branches throughout Texas serving about 89,000 students. On June 6, at 4:12 p.m. local time, Lone Star published a webpage announcing the system-wide adoption of a Free Speech Zone Policy.
Though the institution of “free speech zones” may sound positive, the new policy appears to restrict student’s free speech rights to tiny zones scattered across each campus, such as sidewalks adjacent to parking lots and hallways.
The policy frames itself as an affirmation of students’ speech rights, but Quade Lancaster, a student at the system’s Tomball campus, found the new rules confusing. To Lancaster, it is unclear if he needs to be inside the zones to speak freely, and whether speech outside the zones could be punished.
But when Lancaster placed a phone call three weeks ago seeking clarity from school officials, he told Campus Reform that he was put on hold for up to half an hour multiple times, transferred around like a “hot potato,” hung up on by two administrators, and ultimately never received an answer.
“What are my free speech rights?” he asked. “Why are [they] refusing to clarify?”
Lancaster also said he invited various officials to email him a response, but has not yet heard back. Three weeks later, Lancaster is still without an answer, and Campus Reform’s inquiries to the school’s media office and various officials have been similarly fruitless.
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The concept of “Free Speech” zones is itself an unconstitutional oxymoron. Why do they keep pushing it?
The concept of “free speech zones” is perfectly legal and sensible. It is well-known and completely undisputed that the government is allowed to impose reasonable, content-neutral, and viewpoint-neutral restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression on government property. For instance, streets are for traffic, not for speech, so they can restrict speech that interferes with traffic. They can ban noisy demonstrations on residential streets at 3 in the morning. On campus they can ban people from leafleting right in front of the entrance just when everyone is coming in or out. “Free speech zones” are designated areas where there are no such restrictions, so you can say whatever you like, whenever you like, and within reason as loudly as you like.
The problem comes when administrations think that just because they’ve designated these areas they can impose whatever restrictions they like everywhere else. All restrictions on the rest of the campus still have to be reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral, and the least restrictive means available to accomplish a compelling government interest such as the free flow of traffic.
People interested in the actual law in this area might want to check out the website for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ( thefire.org ). They have real lawyers who actually practice First Amendment law.
And they will tell you exactly what I just did.
Where I disagree with Milhouse is that the entire campus of a public college or university ought to be a free speech zone. I do agree that the college or university can place time, place and manner restrictions on free speech. But it is up to the college or university to justify the restrictions, not the student to show that they are unreasonable. And what I have seen of free speech zones is that they are usually very small portions of the campus when it should be the non-free speech zone which is comparatively small in size.
A “free speech zone” means an area where there are no time-place-and-manner restrictions, or very few. Therefore the whole campus cannot be such a zone. On much of the campus there can and should be such restrictions, but they must be reasonable as well as content- and viewpoint-neutral, and it is up to the college to defend them.
F.O.I.A. request. If that fails a court order will do just fine.
“…the government is allowed to impose reasonable, content-neutral, and viewpoint-neutral restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression on government property.” The university is not a government entity.
“… On campus they can ban …” Who is they? It’s not the government that you were discussing.
Yes, it is.