MORE ARTICLES FROM ‘Free Speech on Public College Campuses’
Many free-speech controversies, especially on college campuses, are grounded in concerns for civility, politeness and good taste. They also tend to follow the same path and end the same way. A government entity regulates speech in an effort to elevate discourse, limit the profane and protect public and personal sensitivities; courts strike down the regulations [...]
Free speech at public universities and colleges is at once the most obvious and the most paradoxical of constitutional principles. It is obvious because given the nature of academic inquiry, only an open, robust and critical environment for speech will support the quest for truth. At the same time, universities are at once communities that [...]
With some exceptions, federal and state freedom-of-information acts or “sunshine laws” require records of public agencies and institutions to be made available to the public or press upon request, and that their meetings be open to public attendance. In the past 35 years, however, federal laws and regulations have restricted news-media access to certain government-controlled [...]
Public colleges and universities frequently make their facilities available
to speakers unaffiliated with the campus, seeking to provide educational
experiences outside the classroom. Sometimes these speakers are chosen by the
administration, sometimes by students. Regardless of who selects a speaker, once
a university has created a forum on its campus, the same First Amendment
protections will apply.
A school has no [...]
An intriguing First Amendment issue arises when university professors are charged with sexual harassment for what they say or do in class.
Universities must combat sexual harassment, a pervasive problem in society. Polls have indicated that an alarmingly high number of female students have been subjected to some form of harassment during their college years. But [...]
The First Amendment has been interpreted as protecting both verbal and nonverbal expression from censorship. This protection has been extended specifically to music, drama, film, and most forms of visual art.
In its 1968 decision U.S. v. O’Brien, the Supreme Court established a test to determine whether interference with expressive conduct is justified: namely, if there [...]
To provide more avenues for students’ personal development, public colleges often require them to pay an “activities fee” to offset the expenses of intramural sports programs, recreation centers, student government, student publications and student clubs. The universities justify these fees as a contribution to each school’s mission of providing a broad educational experience and, in [...]
Public universities were a hotbed of social activism in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, with much student energy focused on opposing the Vietnam War. In
the 1980s, college students did not continue this high level of activism perhaps
because of lack of a common cause around which to rally.
But First Amendment expert Robert Richards, a professor and [...]
Schools at all levels often allow distribution of student-run newspapers, literary magazines and yearbooks on their campus as part of the intellectual and social development of their students. Where students edit and produce the publications, they may run afoul of campus administrators if they publish controversial material.
Some administrators have exercised prior restraint against publications to [...]
“It is an unfortunate fact of our constitutional system that the ideals of freedom and equality are often in conflict. The difficult and sometimes painful task of our political and legal institutions is to mediate the appropriate balance between these two competing values.” — Judge Avern Cohn, in Doe v. University of Michigan, 1989
During the [...]
Colleges and universities, as the training ground of new generations of thinkers, are a common source of controversy concerning what should be taught. Administrators at some public institutions of higher learning, in an effort to promote the values of diversity and equality, have in some cases tried to persuade professors to refrain from voicing certain [...]