Restricting Free Speech on Campus

October 4th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

Many colleges have implemented “free speech zones” on campus. But are they doing any good?

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The Responsibility Project

In what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called “a stunning illustration of the attitude taken towards free speech by too many colleges across the United States,” officials at Modesto Junior College in California told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on – you guessed it – Constitution Day.

Captured on video, college police and administrators told the student, Robert Van Tuinen, that he could only pass out his Constitution pamphlets in the college’s “free speech zone,” and only after attaining approval several weeks ahead of time.

Many feel that entire college campuses should be refuges for free speech, not just small parts of the schools. But according to FIRE, one in six of the 400 largest colleges in the United States have such a policy, limiting where such speech can take place.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president of FIRE, told Fox News that the very idea of speech limitations on college campuses should be troubling to Americans, saying, “They are imposed in an attempt to sanitize the public space of anything that might offend somebody. The fact is, no school specifically needs a speech code. They have the ability to keep order on campus. If people are too loud, harassing people, or blocking traffic, they have the means to address that.” On top of that, Modesto Junior College is a public institution and, in the video, Van Tuinen protests that restricting him to a small cement area violates his First Amendment rights.

Do these “free speech zones” really serve a purpose, or should they be eliminated from college campuses entirely? Weigh in here.