Breaking News: UT–Austin Suspends Rule on Political Signs

By on October 9, 2008

Less than two hours ago, Will Creeley blogged about the University of Texas at Austin’s ban on political signs in dorm room windows, calling it "a silly, if not necessarily unconstitutional, ban on student expression in dorm windows and on dorm doors." Two students, Connor and Blake Kincaid, were to be punished for refusing to take the signs out of their window when asked.

It looks like public exposure has had the predictable effect. We just received this e-mail from the president of the university, William Powers Jr., forwarded to us by a concerned student at UTAustin:

The University’s rule prohibiting the display of signs in students’ residence hall room windows has been the subject of a great deal of discussion for the past few days. I am keenly aware that this prohibition is of intense concern to many members of the student body, as well as the larger community. I believe that the free expression of ideas is crucial to our educational mission, and that our rules should foster civil discourse and debate.  I conclude, therefore, that this rule should be carefully reviewed with the participation of all constituencies in The University of Texas at Austin community, including students.

Effective immediately, I am suspending the prohibition on signs in individual students’ residence hall room windows and any sanctions related to its enforcement. The rule will be removed today from the Division of Housing and Food Service’s rules, and will be replaced with an interim regulation that expressly allows the display of signs and posters in students’ residence hall room windows.

Juan Gonzalez, Vice President for Student Affairs, has kept me well informed on this issue. I have asked him to convene a committee composed of all major constituencies to discuss all aspects of the policy on residence hall room signs and make recommendations on any changes that need to be made. The interim rule allowing signage in individual students’ residence hall room windows will remain in place until the committee issues its report and I act upon their recommendations.

William Powers, Jr.
President

This is definitely a win for free expression on campus and a change that will most likely last through the Presidential election. FIRE will be watching with great interest to see what sort of policy the university ultimately decides to put in place instead of the blanket ban.

Schools: University of Texas at Austin