Many public universities and colleges in California want to establish policies regarding what kind of speech can occur on campus. But doing so can be hazardous. Imagine you are tasked with establishing a policy that governs organized student speech on your campus. What would be reasonable?
Without a lot of legal guidance, you might propose the following: being careful, you might say, “none of the campus is considered any kind of ‘public forum’ for speech activities.” But, to be generous, you might also say, “all of the walkways surrounding the school library will be considered a free speech zone for students and outsiders.” The area is not heavily trafficked, and makes up only a small portion of the campus, but you expect that at least some students and other passersby will be able to see demonstrations or activities in the area specified. Again being generous, you write, “student organizations and outside groups must apply to use the free speech zone for demonstrations or distributing literature, and the college guarantees it will respond to the applications in fifteen (15) days, and will only deny permission for a proposed demonstration if it is manifestly inappropriate for an academic environment as determined by the Chancellor or by his or her designees.”
This campus policy doesn’t sound crazy. And it certainly does not create a police state or Orwellian dystopia. After all, it permits even demonstrations that criticize the college or its policies, since most people would agree such demonstrations would not, if reasonable, qualify as “manifestly inappropriate for an academic environment.” Continue Reading Formulating Effective College Freedom Of Expression Policies Under The First Amendment