New initiative seeks to change unlawful policies at public colleges, universities
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a non-partisan political student organization have launched a new legal effort to change unconstitutional policies at public colleges and universities across the country by sending 30 letters to schools in 16 states. ADF has delivered 23 letters so far, with the remainder scheduled to be sent in the next two weeks. Two schools, one in California and one in Illinois, have already made the requested policy changes.
The letters were all sent in response to official policies that violate students’ rights protected by the First Amendment, and many of them directly violate state laws known as “FORUM acts,” which expressly protect students’ free speech on campus.
“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 objective of these letters is to inform university and college officials of how their policies conflict with the Constitution and, in some cases, also violate state law, so that the schools can make changes. This gives college and university administrators the opportunity to respect the constitutionally protected freedoms of their students without any costly litigation.”
ADF represents Young Americans for Liberty, which has student-led chapters on each of the campuses ADF attorneys 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.
“Young Americans for Liberty exists to peacefully promote the message that ‘We the People,’ not government, can solve our problems,” said Young Americans for Liberty President Cliff Maloney. “Unfortunately, university administrators often silence our students and try to censor their efforts to promote free markets, civil liberties, and the Constitution. That’s why we’ve partnered with ADF to challenge and change these unconstitutional policies. All students, regardless of ideology, should be guaranteed their First Amendment right to free speech.”
The two schools that have changed policies in the wake of the letters are 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.
- 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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