ACLU Brings Suit Against Rhode Island College
December 4, 2006
by William Creeley
Specifically, the suit alleges that the college violated the First Amendment rights of the Women’s Studies Organization (WSO), a student group at RIC. According to the ACLU’s press release, exactly one year ago campus police acted on the request of RIC President John Nazarian and removed signs expressing support for reproductive rights posted by the WSO. The signs, located near RIC’s entrance road, were noticed by a priest driving onto campus to conduct a mass at Nazarian’s home. The priest mentioned the signs in his service, prompting Nazarian to order them removed.
This past September, the school formally announced a restriction on posting signs near the entrance road to the campus; however, the lawsuit contends that other student groups—and even RIC itself—regularly post signs in this restricted area, with no enforcement of the new policy. The lawsuit asks for the court to declare both the sign policy and the removal of the WSO’s signs unconstitutional.
FIRE fully supports the ACLU’s lawsuit, and agrees that RIC’s selectively enforced sign policy is clearly unconstitutional. Indeed, a quick perusal of RIC's speech code
, as reviewed by FIRE’s Spotlight
, suggests that the new sign policy is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the college’s penchant for First Amendment violations. RIC’s speech code
has earned the school a “red” rating, indicating that it both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech on campus.