Nearly a year ago, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) students Brittany Mirelez and Richard Shemberger over the campus’ speech zone.
The college restricted students to one designated zone in which they could exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. They could only use the speech zone with prior permission between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday if the zone was not already fully reserved. (Yes, a group could reserve the entire speech zone and make it impossible for others to exercise their free speech!)
If words are not your thing, perhaps this simple graphic will help you see the unconstitutionality of such a ridiculous policy.
Thankfully, last week the Maricopa County Community College District agreed to eliminate its unconstitutional free speech restrictions at all 10 of its campuses (including PVCC).
“Colleges shouldn’t short-circuit their own purpose by placing their own restrictive speech rules above the freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees to students and all Americans,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “We commend MCCCD for working with us to return free speech to their students while on campus.”
College campuses have long been places where students can assemble, openly share ideas, and determine for themselves what they believe about the world. That means no silencing of speech, as well as no censoring of different viewpoints that are deemed less popular than others.
Unfortunately, campus speech zones and speech codes that discourage students from exercising their free speech are fairly common. From adopting anti-speech policies camouflaged as preventing harassment, to allowing students and faculty to try to silence opposing views on campus, universities nationwide are displaying a gross misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Combine that with recent pushes to create “safe spaces” on college campuses where dissenting opinions are eliminated, and today’s colleges and universities are mere shadows of their former selves.
University administrators aren’t doing anyone any favors by instituting these misguided speech policies. All they do is teach the next generation that bureaucrats can give and take away free speech rights at will and encourage, by example, those same students to implement similar unconstitutional policies in their spheres of influence after they graduate.
But an America without free speech isn’t America at all. And freedom doesn’t mean we will never be confronted with ideas that we don’t like or disagree with. In this case, PVCC and the rest of the Maricopa Community College District got it right by agreeing to change their policy. Here’s to hoping other colleges and universities will take note and follow suit.