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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