Victory for Free Speech at Colorado State University

By July 19, 2007

FORT COLLINS, Colo., July 19, 2007—In a resounding victory for freedom of speech, Colorado State University (CSU) has completely revised three formerly unconstitutional speech codes. The changes came after student activists at CSU, with help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), pressured the university to uphold the constitutional rights of CSU students.
“This is an exciting day for free speech at Colorado State,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “By making these changes, the administration has proven it is serious about protecting its students’ First Amendment rights, and we commend the university.”
In February, concerned CSU students requested help from FIRE in contesting several unconstitutional policies that restricted students’ expression and assembly on campus. On March 12, FIRE wrote a letter to CSU President Larry E. Penley urging him to change three unconstitutional policies: the Peaceful Assembly at CSU policy and the residence hall Advertising and Hate Incidents policies. On March 28, CSU General Counsel Loretta Martinez informed FIRE that although the Peaceful Assembly policy designates Lory Student Center Plaza as the primary public forum space, CSU in fact maintains “numerous locations where students may and have in the past spoken and protested freely.” In response to the university’s affirmation of the right to free assembly, members of the CSU Campus Libertarians held a rally in celebration of free speech outside of the designated “primary ‘Public Forum’ space.”
CSU has now revised its other unconstitutional speech codes as well, and made additional changes to the Peaceful Assembly policy to clarify that free speech is welcome around the campus. The Advertising policy, which used to prohibit the use of any “offensive language” and “references to alcoholic beverages or other drugs,” now prohibits only “obscene language” and provides that advertisements may not “promote illegal behavior.” This is an important distinction, since the old policy was used last year to prohibit the Campus Libertarians from posting fliers supporting a marijuana legalization initiative simply because the posters contained an image of a marijuana leaf. The Hate Incidents policy, which used to prohibit simple “expressions of hostility” in CSU residence halls, now prohibits only true harassment and abuse.
“CSU did the right thing: it listened to students, took note of the First Amendment, and revised its policies accordingly,” graduate student Seth Anthony—who led the student campaign for free speech—said. “It just goes to show how students really can have an impact on campus policy, especially with the support of an organization like FIRE.”
“The events at Colorado State should inspire students everywhere to stand up for their free speech rights,” FIRE’s Lukianoff said. “Students really can make a tremendous difference for liberty on campus, and FIRE is here to help them.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at universities across America can be viewed at www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws.
CONTACT:
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg_lukianoff@www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws

Schools: Colorado State University Cases: Colorado State University: Students Fight for Rights to Free Speech and Assembly