A conservative student group is suing officials at a Massachusetts college, contending the school restricts free speech to just one hour per day at a location that amounts to 1 percent of campus grounds.
Young Americans for Liberty said the University of Massachusetts-Amherst limits the time speeches and rallies can take place from noon to 1 p.m. in a spot in front of the Student Union, law firm Alliance Defending Freedom said in a news release.
What's the punishment for violating the policy?
Violation of the policy may result in sanctions up to and including expulsion, the release indicated.
What else is Alliance Defending Freedom saying?
“A public university is hardly the marketplace of ideas that it’s supposed to be when the marketplace is less than one percent of campus and only open for one hour a day — and then only if university officials approve of your presence there,” ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton noted in the release. “UMass-Amherst’s speech policy contains provisions similar to those that courts have repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional at other schools. If the university wishes to demonstrate its dedication to the free exchange of ideas, it can do so by fixing its policy so that it’s consistent with the First Amendment.”
Cliff Maloney, executive president of Young Americans for Liberty, added to the College Fix that the group is “not looking for an unfair advantage here, but simply a level playing field. Restricting free speech to an hour during the lunch break and to one side of a building is not what the First Amendment is about.”
Sophomore Nick Consolini, chairman of the YAL chapter at UMass-Amherst, also is named as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.
“These issues have been ongoing at UMass for several years. Students have talked with the administration and written op-eds, Alliance Defending Freedom has sent letters in the past, and UMass has done nothing,” AnnMarie Pariseau, Consolini's attorney, added to the College Fix. “Instead of risking sanctions and potentially ruining their academic career by violating the policy, the students have chosen to challenge it proactively so that they and other students can express themselves freely on campus without fear of punishment if the University decides to enforce the speech zone against them.”
How did the school respond?
University spokesperson Ed Blaguszwski declined to comment on the case, the College Fix said.
What else has been happening at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave a graduation speech at the school last May that she used as a platform to bash Republican President Donald Trump.
“I’m trying to keep this apolitical but I can’t help myself … the principle that no one, no one in this country is above the law and we need a Justice Department, not an obstruction of justice department,” Warren said, according to The Hill.
Where else have college free-speech zones been an issue?
- A prayer session was nixed on the campus of Clemson University in 2016 because it wasn't taking place in a free-speech zone and the man initiating it wasn't a student and hadn't filled out proper paperwork.
- Georgia Gwinnett College halted a Christian student’s religious speech in a campus free-speech zone, citing his evangelizing as “disorderly conduct," according to a federal lawsuit filed in 2016.