'(Bleep) Censorship' posters not OK on Saginaw Valley State billboards, prompting legal challenge
December 7, 2012
KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP, MI — A Saginaw Valley State University student says the school is inhibiting his freedom of speech, but university officials say otherwise.
Daniel Chapman wants to put up a sign with a two-word slogan; the first word is an expletive and the second is “censorship.”
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit organization Chapman contacted for help, he’s protesting a university policy that states the Student Life office must review and approve all materials posted throughout the university.
“SVSU is using its unlawful censorship policy to censor student criticism of its unlawful censorship policy," said Robert Shibley, the foundation’s senior vice president in a statement. "SVSU administrators have displayed no understanding of the First Amendment or why free speech is important in our free society."
But the university states it has control over what appears on the university-owned bulletin boards.
“University-owned bulletin boards were never intended to be a free speech forum. There are all kinds of other free speech forums on campus, and students and others regularly take advantage of these ample opportunities to express themselves. We believe our actions are constitutional and sensible,” SVSU officials said.
The university adopted the policy over the summer, which states: all posting must be free from profanity, nudity or sexually suggestive statements and phrases.
In August, Chapman submitted posters for approval with phrases that include profanity. He cited to administrators the 1971 Supreme Court case of Cohen v. California, when the court stated the First Amendment protects the use of expletives in the communication of core political speech, according to the foundation.
The foundation states it has written SVSU President Eric Gilbertson and has not received an answer, and plans to contact Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder regarding the SVSU’s actions.