Texas Tech University: Speech Code Litigation

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Texas Tech University

FIRE intervened at Texas Tech when students recognized its overbroad policies, which include a speech code that prohibited "insults," "ridicule," and "personal attacks," and restricted free speech to twenty foot-diameter gazebo referred to as a "Free Speech Zone." With FIRE’s coordination and support, along with the Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund, the students successfully sought and achieved elimination of the overbroad speech code. Covered widely in the media, the case at Texas Tech also drew support from over 900 students, who signed a petition for free speech on campus, as well as a student organization, Students for Free Speech (SFS), that staged a mock-funeral for free speech, including carrying a wooden coffin through campus in a procession. As FIRE’s third victory in its Speech Code Litigation project, Texas Tech demonstrated once again that courts are ruthlessly intolerant of unconstitutional policies at public universities.

  • UNCG in free speech battle

    December 17, 2005

    Two UNC-Greensboro students face discipline for protesting outside the university’s designated “free speech and assembly areas,” based on a policy that a national civil liberties organization calls unconstitutional. The students, Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott, were charged with a “violation of respect” under the student code of conduct at UNC-Greensboro after a Nov. 16 protest attended by about 40 people. The two students face disciplinary action that could range from a warning to a probation with restrictions. The demonstration outside the library by UNCG College Libertarians was aimed specifically at the university’s policy governing the location of protests on campus. […]

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  • Free speech policy called into question

    October 24, 2005

    As an American citizen, one has a constitutional right to have and state opinions, but officials at college campuses around the country say there is a time and a place for it. This issue is not foreign to San Diego State. Free speech zones began to appear on college campuses during the 1980s as a way for university administrators to allow students to voice their opinions and put on demonstrations without inhibiting the surrounding learning environment, according to a May 2003 Associated Press article ,”Schools under fire for ‘free speech zones.’” But many believe the idea of “free-speech zones” on […]

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  • Colleges Must Educate Students About Value of Free Speech

    December 29, 2004

    For those of you who are concerned about the state of free expression on campus, I would like to introduce you to Texas Tech University’s “Free Speech Gazebo.” The Gazebo is only 20 feet wide, and in early 2003, it was the sole area on campus where students could engage in free-speech activities – demonstrations, speeches or even handing out pamphlets – without clearing it with the university a minimum of six days in advance.   To illustrate the lunacy of this policy, I asked one of my friends, who has a math degree from MIT, how tightly you would […]

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  • Federal judge blocks free speech zones at Texas Tech

    October 2, 2004

    A federal judge has struck down a policy at Texas Tech requiring students to make public speeches in special free-speech zones.The ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2003 by two civil liberties groups on behalf of Jason Roberts, a former law student who has since graduated.The lawsuit claimed that the one location that Tech designated as a free-speech zone – a 20-foot wide gazebo that can hold about 40 people – and a policy that required a permit for speech at other campus locations were restrictive and violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendments. […]

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  • Confronting the campus radicals

    January 7, 2004

    David Horowitz thinks that anybody who cares about the future should confront the fact that U.S. colleges and universities are the fountainhead of financing for the radical movement in America. He has personally taken up the challenge to do something about this.Horowitz was a left-wing campus activist in the 1960s, but he says that men who were too radical even for him and Ramparts, the magazine he edited in the 1960s, now hold tenure at major universities. During the 1970s, these hardcore leftists achieved critical mass on university faculties, took control of hiring committees, and then saw to it that […]

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  • Survey: many college students fuzzy on first amendment rights

    January 1, 2004

    PHILADELPHIA — One out of four college students in a nationwide survey was unable to name any of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, according to a free-speech watchdog group.“These survey results are disheartening, but they unfortunately are not surprising,” says Alan Charles Kors, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).Even among campus administrators who were surveyed, from presidents to assistant deans, 11 percent couldn’t name any specific First Amendment rights, the survey indicated. And when asked which freedom the amendment addresses first, only 2 percent of the students and 6 percent of the administrators […]

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  • Hearing Today in ‘Free Speech Zone’ Lawsuit in Texas

    January 12, 2010

    The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) is reporting on today’s hearing in federal court regarding FIRE’s case at Tarrant County College (TCC). As Torch readers will remember, TCC violated the constitutional rights of student protesters who intended to participate in the national “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus” protest by wearing empty holsters—just like students around the country were doing. The students were told that they could not wear the holsters anywhere on campus and had to confine all protests to tiny “free speech zones.” Ultimately, with the help of FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the students […]

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  • Universities’ Compliance with Speech Code Decisions Leaves Much to Be Desired

    September 24, 2009

    FIRE’s newest Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow is Erica Goldberg. Erica is a graduate of Tufts University, where she was editor-in-chief of Tufts’ weekly newspaper, and of Stanford Law School, where she was a member of the moot court board. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ronald L. Gilman on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where she was confronted with various deprivations of freedom of expression. Before becoming a Robert H. Jackson fellow, Erica worked for two years as an appellate attorney at Latham & Watkins in Washington D.C. and then as […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Lawsuit Challenges Speech Code and “Free Speech Gazebo” at Texas Tech

    June 30, 2009

    One of the most important lawsuits ever coordinated by FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Project was filed six years ago this June against Texas Tech University. The lawsuit challenged the university’s policies, which were “overbroad, vague, involve[d] content-based and viewpoint discrimination, and unconstitutionally restrict[ed] student speech.” Specifically, it challenged Texas Tech’s unconstitutional speech code and free speech zone. Texas Tech’s speech code banned “communications [that] humiliate any person.” The university’s examples of such punishable expression included “sexual innuendoes,” “referring to an adult as ‘girl,’ ‘boy,’ or ‘honey,’” or “sexual stories.” As bad as the speech code was, Texas Tech cemented its […]

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  • Wronging student rights

    September 3, 2005

    As summer ends and college students return to campus, a number of dreadful court decisions may cause them to wonder if their rights have taken a permanent vacation. While the past decades have hardly been a golden age for student rights, there was good reason to be optimistic in recent years. Speech codes fell at colleges from New York to California, the Department of Education finally clarified that “harassment” does not mean just being offended, and Texas Tech University had to admit that its lone 20-foot-wide “free speech gazebo” was inadequate space for its 28,000 students to enjoy their First […]

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  • Liberating America’s Intellectual Gulags

    April 15, 2005

    David French knows what intimidation is.French, the new President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s. One might say that anyone with similar credentials ought to know the definition of intimidation – but French’s experience is a bit more personal than that.“As a pro-life, Christian conservative, I received death threats in my campus mailbox, was shouted down by students and (once) was even shouted down in class by my own professor,” he says about his years in Cambridge. French now spends much of his time explaining to university general counsels […]

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  • Texas Tech’s ‘Free-Speech Zones’ Are Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

    October 15, 2004

    A federal judge has struck down “free-speech zones” at Texas Tech University, ruling unconstitutional a requirement that students who wish to give speeches must stay within a designated area. The case was brought by Jason Roberts, a law student who had sought to speak publicly about his view that “homosexuality is a sinful, immoral, and unhealthy lifestyle.” He asked administrators for permission to give the speech outside the designated zone — a 20-foot-wide gazebo that can hold about 40 people. According to the lawsuit, officials turned down the request, saying that it was “the expression of a personal belief and thus […]

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  • Fraternities Must Stand Up to Schools’ Squelching Free Speech

    October 11, 2004

    While there is no shortage of free-speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least-sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities later may regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by overzealous or opportunistic administrators. […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at Texas Tech

    October 5, 2004

    LUBBOCK, Texas, October 5, 2004—In the third victory in the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) ongoing legal campaign for free speech on America’s public campuses, a federal judge struck down Texas Tech University’s speech code. The judge also ordered large areas of the university to be opened to free expression and prohibited the university from enforcing several other severe limitations on speech. The case against Texas Tech was coordinated by FIRE and filed by the Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund against Texas Tech President Donald R. Haragan as part of FIRE’s ongoing Speech Codes Litigation […]

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  • Practical Advice for Fraternities Caught in the Battle for Free Speech on Campus

    September 16, 2004

    I. Introduction While there is no shortage of free speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities may later regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by […]

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  • Texas Tech Loosens Speech Restrictions, But Some Repressive Policies Remain

    December 9, 2003

    LUBBOCK, TX—In response to the pressure of a free-speech lawsuit and student demands for constitutional rights, Texas Tech University is backing away from at least some of its severe restrictions upon free expression. In July, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) coordinated a lawsuit to force Texas Tech—a public university with 28,000 students—to eliminate a speech code that had designated only one 280-square-foot gazebo for free speech. In response, the university has greatly expanded the number of free speech zones from one small area to six substantially larger areas. “We are heartened that the suit and student activism […]

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  • PCU

    November 1, 2003

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