At Ohio University, Student Group Takes Shot at Speech Zones
January 19, 2007
by William Creeley
According to the students, OU officials attempted to disband an anti-war rally held by other student groups on November 3. Over winter break, some students received letters informing them that they had violated the school’s “free speech zone” policy
for “holding an unauthorized demonstration outside of the university’s approved “free-speech zones.’”
In response, aggrieved students formed an Ohio University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Sophomore Will Klatt, one of the group’s cofounders, told The Athens News that the group is planning a demonstration against the “free speech zone” policy. The rally, to be held on February 2, will take place in the same location as the November 3 rally.
Courts have consistently held that public universities may enforce reasonable time, place and manner regulations when regulating First Amendment activity on campus, as long as they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest and alternative channels of communication are still available. Consistent with this standard, FIRE strongly believes that a university best serves its community by ensuring that protected speech is allowed as much “breathing room” as possible. Indeed, as FIRE said in a letter to UCF President John C. Hitt
, federal law “does not support the transformation of public institutions of higher education into places where constitutional protections are the exception rather than the rule.” Of course, this statement applies with equal and undiminished force at public universities around the country, from Ohio to Florida, Alaska to Maine.