West Virginia University: Limit on Speech to Campus “Free Speech Zones”

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: West Virginia University

West Virginia University (WVU) has abandoned a notorious and chilling policy that quarantined free expression to two small areas of campus. FIRE first learned of WVU’s censorship zones from two WVU students, Michael Bomford and Matthew Poe, in November 2001. The students, who founded the West Virginia University Free Speech Consortium, have publicly criticized the policy since late 2000, when campus police first prohibited the distribution of protest literature. The campus police cited WVU’s policy, which identified only "two designated areas for free speech and assembly"- outlawing these rights on ninety-nine percent of the campus. FIRE wrote WVU President David C. Hardesty, Jr. and urged him "to tear down the barriers to speech and declare all of WVU a ‘Free Speech Zone.’" WVU’s Board of Governors finally replaced its policy with one that recognized free speech rights. The new policy officially abolished censorship zones, stating, "Assemblies of persons may occur on any grounds on the campus outside of buildings."