In response to a lawsuit filed by a student at Thomas Nelson Community College, the Virginia Community College system has suspended its restrictive campus speech policies until May 2. The Associated Press reports that Christian Parks was barred from preaching in any location but a “free speech zone:” attorneys on both sides have asked for the suspension until new policies and procedures can be worked out.
Demonstrating that Democrats can be just as repellant as Republicans when it comes to misinterpreting the Constitution, Virginia Governor Terry
McAwful McAuliffe signed legislation on April 4 that essentially criminalizes student demonstrations by allowing the public university system to establish restrictive “free speech zones.” These obscure areas, far from administrative buildings, mimic municipal restrictions that confine protesting citizens to small areas far from the event or people that they are trying to influence.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights, 60% of colleges and universities nationwide restrict student speech in ways that any freshly-hatched attorney could tell them violate the First Amendment, and they fall apart as soon as a judge breathes on them.
In 2002, West Virginia University dropped its free-speech zone policy after being sued by a civil liberties organization. Two years later, a federal judge struck down Texas Tech’s policy establishing a 20-foot-wide gazebo as a free-speech zone. Last year, Des Moines Area Community College abandoned a policy restricting student leaflet-distribution activities to a table in the student center. And earlier this year, Modesto Junior College in California agreed to drop its free-speech zone and pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a student who was barred from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day.
What is interesting to me is that it seems as, or more, likely that these restrictions are being challenged by libertarians, conservatives and Christians on campus. Students and professors! Please engage the following in the comments section:
Might it be possible for you to imagine putting aside other kinds of ideological differences about what are usually called “social issues” (for example race, sex, homosex, race, race, Israel, race, sex, sex) to organize around your common interests as students and workers?