Hawaii: Student Sues University System Over “Free Speech Zone” Violation

April 25, 2014

At PanAm Post

After she was denied her right to distribute copies of the US Constitution on her college campus, University of Hawaii student Merritt Burch (joined by fellow student Anthony Vizzone) exercised another right on April 24: the right to sue university in federal court, with the assistance of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Burch is president of her Young Americans for Liberty chapter, a pro-liberty organization for US college campuses. On January 16, she and a fellow YAL member were walking around passing out copies of the Constitution and YAL information cards, when a UH administrator ordered the pair to stop walking around and to go back to their table.

The reason? The students were outside UH Hilo‘s “free speech zone,” a muddy, small, and otherwise inadequate space for most activities, let alone distributing literature.

“Free speech zone” policies are a point of contention in many FIRE cases. FIRE’s president Greg Lukianoff says, “the First Amendment is not optional at public colleges — it’s the law. Enforcing restrictive ‘free speech zone’ policies that prevent students from passing out copies of the Constitution is impossible to justify.”

Also according to Lukianoff, this is the second time during this academic year alone that students have been forbidden from distributing the Constitution on campuses. This is not only “absolutely unacceptable,” but a highly illegal violation of basic rights.

Source: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Schools: University of Hawaii at Hilo Cases: University of Hawaii at Hilo – Speech Code Litigation