Four more victories for First Amendment freedoms at public colleges, universities

ADF letters on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty results in additional policy changes, at schools in AL, MN, PA, SC
Monday, August 10, 2020

WASHINGTON – Four public colleges and universities have joined the list of those that have made changes to unlawful policies in response to an Alliance Defending Freedom legal effort on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty.

Twenty-six letters were sent to schools in 14 states in response to official policies that violate students’ rights protected by the First Amendment. Many of those policies directly violate state laws known as “FORUM acts,” which expressly protect students’ free speech on campus. The latest schools that have made policy changes as a result of the letters they received are Jacksonville State University in Alabama, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, and the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

“Public universities should encourage the free exchange of ideas, rather than censor, sideline, or shut it down,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The colleges and universities that have made policy changes so far should be commended for their willingness to quickly conform their rules to the U.S. Constitution and applicable state laws, and they serve as an example to other schools who should likewise desire to respect the constitutionally and legally protected freedoms of their students.”

ADF represents Young Americans for Liberty, which has student-led chapters on each of the campuses ADF attorneys has contacted. Among the problematic policies are various speech codes and zones that place unconstitutional restrictions on student speech, including policies that require prior permission to distribute literature or pre-registration for peaceful student advocacy events.

Jacksonville State University removed an unconstitutional policy that required its students to notify the school in advance before engaging in any expressive activity; St. Cloud State University no longer requires students to obtain a permit to engage in speech in the outdoor areas of campus; and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and the College of Charleston revised their policies so that students no longer have to obtain permission in advance to engage in expression on those campuses.

The four schools join two others that already changed policies in the wake of the letters: Santa Rosa Junior College in California, which modified a policy that unconstitutionally requires students to report and sign in before speaking on campus, and Western Illinois University, which eliminated its “speech zone” policy restricting student speech to a small percentage of its campus.

“All students, regardless of ideology, should be guaranteed their First Amendment right to free speech, and we commend these colleges and universities for implementing policy changes that respect those rights,” said Young Americans for Liberty President Cliff Maloney. “Young Americans for Liberty exists to peacefully promote the message that ‘We the People,’ not government, can solve our problems. University administrators often censor our students, and that’s why we’ve partnered with ADF to seek change. It’s our hope that other colleges and universities that we’ve contacted will join those who have chosen to model the First Amendment values that they’re supposed to be teaching to their students.”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
 
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