Challenges in Freedom of Speech

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Statement of Problem

In our current political climate, students have experienced challenges in their freedom of speech. Everyone in America has the right to the First Amendment. According to the United States Supreme Court, public institutions of higher education are legally bound to this amendment (Lowery, 2016, p 538). This amendment applies to speech, expression, and assembly. Private colleges and universities have also protected students right to the first amendment. Private institution protection allows for a broad range of viewpoints that ensures a diverse educational experience. In peeks of governmental chaos, wars, and other historical events, colleges and universities have been at the center. Starting the in the 1800s, college and universities have been at the center of civic engagement and activism. In several cases, freedom of speech on campus has shaped social movements that have changed history (Ali, 2017, p. 4).

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In the case of specific demonstrations, institutions have been required to address a person first amendment in free speech zones. This has placed limitations on speech and demonstrations. The roles of student affairs practitioners in these cases are critical. As the first to know about demonstration and events, they are the primary decision-makers that articulate the laws of freedom of speech. If student affairs professionals are not fluent in the laws, then these policies can be broken. Student affairs departments author clear policies that protect free speech while maintaining inclusive spaces (Lowery, 2016, p. 538). In the three cases below, institutions have articulated their rationales for said policies in order to protect the student or the first amendment right.

In the case of Charlottesville and the evangelistic preacher on campus, both campuses aim to maintain inclusive and safe environments for the student. While in the final case, the first amendment protects students freedom of speech. In all situations, the goal is for student affairs practitioners to maintain campus environments that could be challenged by outside constituents. Policy: Time, Place and Manner Time, place and manner is the policy address a student or off-campus party freedom of speech. In several cases brought to the court circuits, public institutions could regulate speech without impeding constitutional rights. The U.S Supreme Court articulate the clauses when an institution applies to time, place and manner. Limitation on time, place and manner must not favor one perspective or side, serve a significant government interest. The speech, demonstration, or assembly could achieve a specific interest and offer alternative options for speech.

Yet, public institutions are restricted from impeded speech because they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Restrictions on time, frequency, and length must be rational. Place restrictions are implemented by campus reservations and campus can ensure neutrality if the property is owned by the institution. Manner refers to not the content, however, the volume of the speech or demonstration. Institutions have been under scrutiny for their articulation of the law and many institutions have had to untangle the law (Morse, 2015, p. 4).

The important distinction to make is when the speaker is a student or is campus affiliated versus non-affiliated. Rationale for Policies In these three cases below, institutions have implemented time, place and manner policies. The individual articulation of the law assists in the development of comprehensive student affairs models. They can serve as examples of how colleges and universities should shape their policies. In doing so, they provide scenarios and examples for student affairs practitioners to digest.

University of Virginia- Charlottesville

In recent history, colleges and universities have experienced startling demonstrations that shaped history. These demonstrations on campus have defied their mission and reputation. Recounting August 2017 at the University of Virginia- Charlottesville, white nationalists, and supremacists leaders marched through the campus rallying around “White Lives Matter”. University of Virginia students locked arms in the middle of campus to block white nationalists from entering a sacred part of campus. This shortly erupted into a mass riot that concluded with three fatalities. At the end of the disruption, police officers and law officials declared it an unlawful demonstration. Yet, this came after the mass disruption of peace (Washington Post, 2017).

The reason why this demonstration was deemed unlawful because of the law time, place and manner. The demonstration happened on university property without proper permits. In addition to this, article, violence erupted, causing disruption. This disruption interruppted normal campus operations causing. In addition to this, Another note is the group did not follow the necessary steps in the University of Virginias designated public forum area (Morse, 2015, p. 5). Preachers on Campus In a case Georgia Southern University, an evangelist speaker sought to change the policies that limited the time and manner of allowed by the university. In this case, an evangelistic preacher presented a case against the Georgia Southern University for limiting the time of the preaching. This is the case, neither the institution nor the preachers disputed the right for expression of religion.

In this case, GSU policies upheld a person’s constitutional right while maintaining campus policy. A speaker that is not affiliated with the college must seek necessary permits in order to te university to properly regulate the demonstration (Morse, 2015, p. 5). If permits are not obtained, then there is no right to assemble because the safety becomes a concern. In addition to this, the campus have greater leverage to exclude outside as long as the exclusion is neutral and reasonable (Lowery, 2016, pg. 539). Modesto Junior College Free speech zones on campus have come under scrutiny in recent years. Free speech zone is areas of campus that do not require prior reservation where students and other constituents are allowed to assemble. In 2013, Modesto Junior College challenged a student’s rights in a free speech zone.

On Constitution Day, on September 2013, students were celebrating by distributing copies of the constitution. Campus representatives instructed students that they must register their event in advance. The student was distributing flyers in front of the student center. The case noted that all events must be held inside of the free speech area. Despite the interpretation of the policy, courts later decided that the campus policies must be revised. The revisions now allow for free expression on campus at outdoor areas by a campus sponsored affiliate (Morse, 2015, p. 5).

Outcomes of the Policy Institutions are facing critical outcomes as it relates to their policies. Some of the outcomes that have occurred recently are colleges and universities clearly defining their policies on freedom of speech. Other outcomes include institutions have multifaceted plans for if/when controversial speakers come to campus. These plans are vetted so that neither the institution or student is as a risk. In addition to this, students affairs practitioners are creating more cross-functional relationships with faculty and staff on campus to ensure that all viewpoints are taken into consideration.

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Challenges In Freedom Of Speech. (2019, May 18). Retrieved March 24, 2023 , from

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