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UMass Dartmouth Criticized by FIRE for Unrealistic Free Speech Policy

UMass Dartmouth Criticized by FIRE for Unrealistic Free Speech Policy

“public forum spaces”

The school has a ‘free speech zone’ but that’s not even the worst part.

From the FIRE blog:

December 2019 Speech Code of the Month: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

“Free speech zone” policies are on the decline. FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2020 report, released last week, found that 8.3% of surveyed schools maintain such policies, which limit student expressive activities to small and often out-of-the-way areas on campus. This number represents a significant improvement over the past decade: A 2013 FIRE survey found that 16.4% of campuses — roughly double today’s percentage — maintained a free speech zone policy.

Yet, despite facing litigation, legislation, and policy reform work to eradicate free speech zone policies, some schools still hold on. One such school is the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for December.

UMass Dartmouth’s “Public Forum Use of University Facilities” policy states that students may conduct expressive activities in “public forum spaces” on campus, but when listing out these spaces, provides just one option: “The grassy areas to the south and east, within 75 feet, of the campanile, bounded by the Group I campanile walkway and the Group IV campanile walkway.”

The policy initially provides that students may exercise the right to assembly “in appropriate public forums without seeking sponsorship or permission of the University,” but a few paragraphs later, the policy states:

Person wishing to use a public forum space must inform the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at least 48 hours in advance regarding the date, time, number of people involved, and the contact person(s) for the event.


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Asking permission to express a right. Yeah, right, sure.