Houston Matters

Should Expression on Campus Be Limited to Free Speech Zones?

A young Blinn College student named Nicole Sanders wanted to start a student organization to advocate for gun rights on the Brenham campus. She was told she could only “engage in expressive activity” in a designated “free speech zone,” which is roughly the size of a parking spot. Add this to other “free speech” questions […]

A young Blinn College student named Nicole Sanders wanted to start a student organization to advocate for gun rights on the Brenham campus. She was told she could only "engage in expressive activity" in a designated "free speech zone," which is roughly the size of a parking spot.

Add this to other “free speech” questions and controversies the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes are popping up on campuses nationwide of late, including a University of Tulsa student suspended because of his husband's Facebook posts, and a George Washington University student suspended for displaying a swastika.

Free expression and public protests often first bubble up on campuses. That’s why some colleges have policies like “speaker’s circles” or “free speech zones” — to establish safe and clearly designated spaces for such expression to be conducted without disrupting classes and other campus activities.

We consider whether some policies, like anti-harassment requirements, ultimately serve that purpose, or go too far. We talk it over with Will Creeley, FIRE’s Vice President of Legal & Public Advocacy, and Josh Blackman, assistant professor of law at the South Texas College of Law.

MORE:
Student Sues Blinn College Over ‘Free Speech Zone’ (Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2015)
Nicole Sanders’ Full Complaint in Sanders v. Guzman

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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