San Francisco State University: Speech Code Litigation Project

Category: Free Speech
Schools: San Francisco State University

SFSU put its College Republicans on trial before a campus tribunal (see more here) for stepping on makeshift Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. The College Republicans claimed that SFSU’s speech codes were facially invalid, and with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund and the support of FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Project, sued the university. The lawsuit ultimately resulted in an injunction against SFSU, effectively striking down unconstitutional speech codes across the entire California State University system.

  • Students who ‘desecrated’ terrorist flags vindicated

    November 9, 2007

    In a decision hailed as a victory for free speech, a federal judge ordered San Francisco State University and the California State University system to stop enforcing speech codes used to prosecute students for the “desecration” of flags used by terrorist groups. U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil issued a preliminary injunction to bar the schools from enforcing several policies challenged in a lawsuit. One required students to act in accordance with SFSU “goals, principles, and policies” and another, a CSU system-wide policy, called for students “to be civil to one another.” “This decision is a vital step in the fight […]

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  • The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility over Constitutionality

    July 23, 2014

    One needs only to flip five pages into the University of Pittsburgh’s Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Procedures to find “The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility” (the “Pitt Promise,” or “the Promise”)—a list of pedagogical principles and values to which students are expected to adhere. In principle, the pledge is morally sound and perhaps desirable, but, as FIRE has explained, mandating civility clauses infringes on students’ First Amendment rights. As a current student at the University of Pittsburgh, a public institution of higher education that is bound by the Constitution, it concerns me that the university has enacted a policy that so clearly infringes on its students’ rights.

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  • ADF’s David Hacker on Civility Codes as Speech Codes

    August 12, 2010

    Last week in The Christian Post, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Legal Counsel David J. Hacker took aim at an August 5, 2010, article titled “Rude Democracy” in Inside Higher Ed, written by Susan Herbst. Herbst discusses the perceived lack of civility in contemporary American discourse, both in the larger society and on university campuses, and argues that one solution to the problem as presented on campus is to maintain and enforce civility policies regulating student expression. Herbst writes that civility policies should play a major role in how universities counsel their students to behave on campus and should be used more prominently […]

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  • SFSU Policy Change Just Another in a Long Line of Free Speech Zone Reversals

    April 7, 2010

    Sam reported last week that San Francisco State University (SFSU) has revised its “Use of Buildings and Grounds” policy, which previously limited campus demonstrations and other expressive activities, such as distributing literature, to specified free speech zones. SFSU’s revised policy allows students to distribute literature anywhere in the university’s outdoor spaces so long as pedestrian traffic is unimpeded. As for rallies and demonstrations, the revised policy does not specify any free speech zones, and allows for spontaneous events “occasioned by news or issues coming into public knowledge” as an exception to its requirement for advanced reservation for outdoor student events. […]

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  • SFSU Eliminates Free Speech Zones

    April 2, 2010

    There is good news for students at San Francisco State University: pursuant to the university’s revised policy on the Use of Buildings and Grounds, demonstrations and other expressive activities are no longer restricted to free speech zones. Under the old policy, “rallies and demonstrations” at SFSU—a university of more than 30,000 students—were restricted to “Public Forum Areas (i.e., Student Union Plaza Area).” Similarly, the distribution of literature was restricted to “the Student Union Plaza behind the blue lines marked on the pavement.” The revised policy contains no such restrictions. Now, “[d]istribution of literature may occur in University outdoor areas as […]

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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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  • Remembering September 11 and the Freedoms that Make Us Americans

    September 11, 2008

    On the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation, FIRE joins the rest of the country in remembering those who were lost. As we look back on that day, it is important that we also remind ourselves of the importance of the freedoms that make this country what it is, and that we commit ourselves to defending those freedoms when they are threatened. As those who follow FIRE’s work well know, many, if not most, American colleges and universities restrict freedom as much as they claim to promote it. In fact, in the immediate wake of the […]

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  • Victory at San Francisco State, But Serious Concerns Remain

    September 9, 2008

    Yesterday, I reported about the Outdoor Event Request Form policy at San Francisco State University (SFSU) barring all student groups from holding outdoor events. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) wrote to SFSU on behalf of the College Republicans demanding that SFSU respect its students’ First Amendment rights and change the policy. We are happy to report that J.E. Saffold, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, promptly responded to ADF’s letter and retracted the ban on outdoor events. That said, we are a little irked at Saffold’s dishonesty. Saffold claims that groups were never barred from holding events […]

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  • San Francisco State University Puts Indefinite Hold on Outdoor Protests

    September 8, 2008

    San Francisco State University is at it again. SFSU has posted a statement on its website suspending all outdoor protests. The statement reads: The Outdoor Reservation Request Process for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 events has been postponed until further notice per University Administration. The postponement will be in effect until completion of a review of Time, Place, and Manner policies by a task force with final recommendations subject to Presidential approval by the President’s Cabinet. It is the intent that the review will be completed in early summer. We apologize for any inconvenience. The College Republicans intend to hold […]

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  • Victory over San Francisco State University’s Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    March 4, 2008

    Chalk up another victory for FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project. Today’s press release discusses the settlement of the lawsuit against San Francisco State University (SFSU), challenging the school’s unconstitutional speech codes. The press release explains: SFSU’s speech codes had banned expression clearly protected by the United States Constitution. For example, the college’s sexual harassment policy defined sexual harassment as “one person’s distortion of a university relationship by unwelcome conduct which emphasizes another person’s sexuality.” A policy regulating student organizations had banned any conduct “inconsistent with SF State goals, principles, and policies.” In addition, the SFSU College Republicans was unconstitutionally targeted […]

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  • Victory over Unconstitutional Speech Codes: San Francisco State University Settles Lawsuit with College Republicans in Favor of Free Speech

    March 4, 2008

    SAN FRANCISCO, March 4, 2008—Yesterday, San Francisco State University (SFSU) settled a lawsuit challenging its speech codes by agreeing to modify several unconstitutional policies to make them consistent with the First Amendment. The settlement also requires SFSU to pay damages to members of the university’s College Republicans as well as to pay the College Republicans’ attorney fees. The lawsuit—part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Speech Codes Litigation Project—was filed in July 2007 by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). “Unconstitutional speech codes have been dealt yet another blow,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “This lawsuit […]

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  • SFSU: Another Speech Code Falls

    November 8, 2007

    As we announced in our press release today, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the California State University (CSU) System as a whole from enforcing several unconstitutional speech codes. The codes were challenged in a lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). This lawsuit—the latest in FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project—was filed by the SFSU College Republicans and two of the group’s individual members after SFSU violated the group’s First Amendment rights last year by dragging them through […]

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  • Federal Court Orders San Francisco State University, California State University System Not to Enforce Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    November 8, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, November 8, 2007—In a crucial victory for free speech, a federal judge has ordered San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the California State University System (CSU) to stop enforcing several unconstitutional speech codes. The codes were challenged in a lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “This decision is a vital step in the fight against unconstitutional campus speech codes,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The court’s decision frees hundreds of thousands of students throughout the CSU System from unlawful restrictions on their expression.” […]

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  • Students Sue San Francisco State University over Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    July 9, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, July 9, 2007—San Francisco State University (SFSU) is the latest target of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) highly successful Speech Codes Litigation Project. In cooperation with FIRE, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against SFSU for violating the First Amendment rights of its students. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization devoted to protecting religious liberty, filed the suit. “Through its policies and practices, SFSU has violated and continues to violate the First Amendment rights of every student on its campus,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Beginning today, SFSU will have to answer for […]

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