Public College Argues They're Not Forum for Free Speech

"“The campus is a college student’s public square."

It's a win for free speech on campus. 

Pierce College in California is being sued by student Kevin Shaw, a student who was prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution outside of a designated free speech zone. He was told that, to hand them out, he would have to fill out an application and use the free speech zone, which is just 616 square feet of the 426 acre-campus. Campus Reform reports that the school's attorneys have argued that this is legal, because the campus of this public school was a “non-public forum." The motion was dismissed because:

"Given the traditional purpose of the open, outdoor areas of universities, such as the ‘Mall’ on Pierce’s campus, the Court finds that these areas are traditional public fora, regardless of Pierce’s regulations naming them non-public fora.”

Shaw was aided in his litigation by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon said in a statement

"The campus is a college student’s public square. It’s their space to be engaged citizens. The public recognizes this. So do courts across the country. Now it’s time for LACCD to follow suit.”

Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Director of Free Speech Alexander Staudt said:

“This decision sends a clear signal to all university administrators that mistakenly believe they can create rules that supersede the Constitution. I see this as a victory in the fight for free speech.”

Alex Murphy, president of the YAL chapter at Pierce College added:

"To walk completely across this campus would take hours and it is absurd that there is only a small space on that walk where free speech is allowed. This case is not just about Pierce College, but every public university in the nation that has unconstitutional free speech policies."

Pierce College spokesperson Yusef Robb unconvincingly told Campus Reform:

“We are fully committed to free expression on our campuses. As a community college district, promoting the free exchange of ideas and knowledge is at the core of what we do, every day.”

A campus win!