First-in-the-Nation Law in Virginia Bans Unconstitutional Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

 

On Friday, April 3, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a first-of-its-kind bill that effectively designates all outdoor areas on Virginia public campuses as public forums. This has the practical effect of not allowing campus speech to be quarantined into ‘free speech zones.’ I wrote a column announcing the news over at The Huffington Post:

Students in Virginia might be surprised to know that the open areas on campus were not already public forums, but the Virginia state legislature has made it official. The bill, authored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly unanimously. My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), urged the passage of the bill, and FIRE’s own Joe Cohn testified on behalf of the legislation in hearings in both legislative houses.

I have written about the problem of “free speech zones” on campus many times before. For a little primer in FSZs, check out this video about how some libertarian students in Ohio stood up to and defeated one such zone:

 

There are 24 comments.

  1. Member

    I’ve been known to do some “street preaching” (not in the way that traditionally sounds) on a local college campus and wonder how these kinds of things will effect that.

    • #1
    • April 8, 2014 at 10:13 am
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  2. Member

    This is a giving the McAuliffe his due moment. Of course, when both houses of the legislature provide unanimous support there isn’t much hope in a veto.

    • #2
    • April 8, 2014 at 10:25 am
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  3. Member

    Great News! I am sure that this is due to the efforts of FIRE – directly or indirectly. People, donate to FIRE – we need more of this.

    • #3
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:00 am
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  4. Member

    I’m not so sure this is a good thing. We have the right to assemble; that doesn’t mean we have the right to assemble wherever we please. Personally, I always thought that campuses would flourish with less student demonstration and more in-classroom exchange of ideas.

    • #4
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:00 am
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  5. Member

    That may the first positive outcome I’ve heard out of my commonwealth’s new governor. I suppose every person has some shiny side.

    • #5
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:14 am
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  6. Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Sisyphus:This is a giving the McAuliffe his due moment. Of course, when both houses of the legislature provide unanimous support there isn’t much hope in a veto.

     Yup!

    • #6
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:32 am
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  7. Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Ed G.:I’m not so sure this is a good thing. We have the right to assemble; that doesn’t mean we have the right to assemble wherever we please. Personally, I always thought that campuses would flourish with less student demonstration and more in-classroom exchange of ideas.

    Everything campuses are reasonably concerned about are covered by the “reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” But, as we have said a million times before, there is nothing reasonable about declaring 99% of a public campus a censorship zone. 

    • #7
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:34 am
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  8. Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Barkha Herman:Great News! I am sure that this is due to the efforts of FIRE – directly or indirectly. People, donate to FIRE – we need more of this.

     Thank you Barkha! It’s great to hear from you. I was a little scared by the new website. Here is the support link if anyone wants it! Thanks for helping us spread the word. 

    • #8
    • April 8, 2014 at 11:36 am
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  9. Member

    Huzzah!

    • #9
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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  10. Coolidge

    Now if the ban could be lifted in the classrooms…

     

    • #10
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm
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  11. Member

    Greg Lukianoff:

    Ed G.:I’m not so sure this is a good thing. We have the right to assemble; that doesn’t mean we have the right to assemble wherever we please. Personally, I always thought that campuses would flourish with less student demonstration and more in-classroom exchange of ideas.

    Everything campuses are reasonably concerned about are covered by the “reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” But, as we have said a million times before, there is nothing reasonable about declaring 99% of a public campus a censorship zone.

    That’s one way to put it. Let me ask you a few questions: Would your view be different if it were a private university?You say that “reasonable concerns” would be covered. What is a reasonable concern, and why is a free speech zone an unreasonable response? I know it’s been this way since at least the 60’s, but should there be a presumption that one of the purposes of a college campus should be to recruit, demonstrate, and protest for private concerns? What is unreasonable about presuming that learning and debate should occur in the classroom?Why should you get to declare such a presumption unreasonable?Why isn’t the answer to pursue your goals and interests on your own time, rather than to demand that an institution allow you access on your own terms?

    EDIT: 2.0 removed my bullet points and smooshed my questions together.

    • #11
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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  12. Thatcher

    Greg,

    You just punched a hole in their line and your fullback ran for a 60 yard score. Great!

    Now is the time to follow on. Keep the momentum.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #12
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm
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  13. Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). On campuses it would mean that you can stop students from disrupting the basic functions of the university, preventing students from studying or sleeping, etc. I can’t really tease out the whole meaning of that in short form. I did write a guide about free speech law on campus, tho! 

    As for private versus public, public colleges are bound by the First Amendment, private campuses are not. I expand on what that means here.

    • #13
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm
    • Like
  14. Member

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). On campuses it would mean that you can stop students from disrupting the basic functions of the university, preventing students from studying or sleeping, etc. I can’t really tease out the whole meaning of that in short form. I did write a guide about free speech law on campus, tho!As for private versus public, public colleges are bound by the First Amendment, private campuses are not. I expand on what that means here.

    Are public colleges bound by the first amendment to the extent you champion because they are public or because they are colleges? For instance, do we have an obligation to allow the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Monument to be used to stage demonstrations or protests simply because it is public property (that is, property owned by the public)?

    • #14
    • April 8, 2014 at 2:50 pm
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  15. Member

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). ….

    So why is a free speech zone unreasonable (especially if the policy is indifferent to viewpoint)?

    • #15
    • April 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm
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  16. Inactive

    Ed G.:

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). ….

    So why is a free speech zone unreasonable (especially if the policy is indifferent to viewpoint)?

     The First Amendment to the Constitution?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

    What part of “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” is difficult to understand? The courts have long held that the First Amendment applies to the states and their various agencies. This should have needed legislation like a rabbi needs a pulled pork sandwich.

    • #16
    • April 8, 2014 at 7:22 pm
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  17. Member

    What part of “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” is difficult to understand?

    I’m pretty sure the part that everyone gets hung up on is the word “no.” Most of the time they like to just pretend it isn’t there, since they can’t imaging why it is . . .

    • #17
    • April 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm
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  18. Member

    Carey J.:

    Ed G.:

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). …. 

    So why is a free speech zone unreasonable (especially if the policy is indifferent to viewpoint)?

    The First Amendment to the Constitution?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances 

    What part of “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” is difficult to understand? The courts have long held that the First Amendment applies to the states and their various agencies. This should have needed legislation like a rabbi needs a pulled pork sandwich.

     So you assume that there are no limits to this amendment? Demonstrations allowable at the DMV during business hours? Protests at Arlington Cemetery?

    Greg already pointed out that, in fact, there are limits for reasonable time, place, and manner. Do you reject the validity of those limits?

    • #18
    • April 9, 2014 at 6:45 am
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  19. Member

    Carey J.:

    Ed G.:

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). …. 

    So why is a free speech zone unreasonable (especially if the policy is indifferent to viewpoint)?

    The First Amendment to the Constitution?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances 

    What part of “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” is difficult to understand? The courts have long held that the First Amendment applies to the states and their various agencies. This should have needed legislation like a rabbi needs a pulled pork sandwich.

     None of it is difficult to understand. However, as long as we’re reasonably interpreting this text as applicable to governing bodies other than Congress, then it’s definitely not a stretch to allow for other reasonable interpretations that might deviate from the plain meaning of the text.

    The way I read the plain meaning is this: we have the right to speech, but we do not have unlimited right to access any public land we wish to use as our stage.

    • #19
    • April 9, 2014 at 7:46 am
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  20. Member

    In a world where the Westboro Baptist clown car shows up everywhere in disgusting fashion with near impunity, the generation that took over campus administrative offices for days and weeks and cavalierly baited police lines are shutting down another generation’s dissidence and protest by relegating it to an obscure corner of campus where it won’t upset the nice Marxist comradeship of the general campus. And then there are the speech codes. Campuses across the country have been getting slammed with speech suits, this is the Virginia government saving themselves some totally unnecessary legal fees that would help the Most Hypocritical Generation harass the Most Mired in Public Debt Generation.

    • #20
    • April 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm
    • Like
  21. Inactive

    Ed G.:

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). On campuses it would mean that you can stop students from disrupting the basic functions of the university, preventing students from studying or sleeping, etc. I can’t really tease out the whole meaning of that in short form. I did write a guide about free speech law on campus, tho!As for private versus public, public colleges are bound by the First Amendment, private campuses are not. I expand on what that means here.

    Are public colleges bound by the first amendment to the extent you champion because they are public or because they are colleges? For instance, do we have an obligation to allow the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Monument to be used to stage demonstrations or protests simply because it is public property (that is, property owned by the public)?

     Colleges used to be (and ought to be) about the free exchange of ideas. The notion that a college can segregate free speech into a ghetto called a “free speech zone” is offensive. It is utterly contrary to the ideals of freedom of thought and broadening students’ perspectives that separate colleges from vo-tech schools. 

    A college that bans free speech is unclear on the concept of “college”.

    • #21
    • April 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm
    • Like
  22. Member

    Carey J.:

    Ed G.:

    Greg Lukianoff:Sorry, what I mean is “reasonable time place and manner restrictions” is a term of art in the law that allows for common sense regulation of speech (not based on viewpoint). On campuses it would mean that you can stop students from disrupting the basic functions of the university, preventing students from studying or sleeping, etc. I can’t really tease out the whole meaning of that in short form. I did write a guide about free speech law on campus, tho!As for private versus public, public colleges are bound by the First Amendment, private campuses are not. I expand on what that means here

    Are public colleges bound by the first amendment to the extent you champion because they are public or because they are colleges? For instance, do we have an obligation to allow the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Monument to be used to stage demonstrations or protests simply because it is public property (that is, property owned by the public)?

    Colleges used to be (and ought to be) about the free exchange of ideas. The notion that a college can segregate free speech into a ghetto called a “free speech zone” is offensive. It is utterly contrary to the ideals of freedom of thought and broadening students’ perspectives that separate colleges from vo-tech schools.A college that bans free speech is unclear on the concept of “college”.

    The college in the example didn’t ban speech, though. No one is proscribing thought either.

    • #22
    • April 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm
    • Like
  23. Member

    Carey J.:

    …..

    Colleges used to be (and ought to be) about the free exchange of ideas. ….

    I suspect that the overreach of this idea has much to do with the ruination of college. Free exchange of ideas? Yes, but in the classroom in the context of a scholarly debate guided by professional educators. Students don’t need college to spread their ideas, and I see no reason why colleges should be obligated to provide the facilities to do so.

    • #23
    • April 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm
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