Lawyer talks First Amendment

May 2, 2007

Offending people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff.

“Offense is something that happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged,” said Lukianoff, who was in the Clark Building on Tuesday night to talk about free speech on college campuses.

“If you have gone to college for four years and you haven’t gotten your deepest beliefs challenged, ask for your money back.”

Lukianoff works for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, and tackles individual cases of violations against free speech on campuses around the nation.

Lukianoff has worked with CSU in the past. Last month, he along with the CSU Libertarians fought to change the university’s “speech codes.”

Lukianoff argued that the zone where free speech was permitted on campus was unconstitutional simply for the fact that free speech zones are unconstitutional.

“Free speech activities include what you wear, what you read,” Lukianoff said. “How can you only have that in one designated area?”

CSU expressed that there actually aren’t explicit free speech zones in the latest free speech zone policy, Lukianoff said.

“So far, CSU has shown willingness to adjust its free speech policy,” he said.

Seth Anthony, a member of the CSU Libertarians, agrees that progress has been made.

“The university has said that they are dedicated to free speech and now their policies are beginning to reflect that,” Anthony said.

The issue that most universities have dealt with that surround free speech rights are specifics on what can and cannot be protected under the First Amendment, Lukianoff said.

“Dissenting ideas can be taken as disrespectful and I don’t think that’s something to apologize about,” he said.

Yet, dissenting ideas are exactly what get some people in trouble.

That may have been the case for a University of Colorado student who is also a former CSU student Max Karson was arrested after investigators learned that his classmates felt threatened to be in class with him after he made comments about the Virginia Tech shooting.

“We want to know more of the facts,” Lukianoff said. “Because when it comes to threats, threats can be contentious.”

Regardless of whether or not Karson posed any real threat or not, the importance of free speech on university campuses is pertinent in a time when 68.5 percent of the colleges FIRE researched had policies that were “laughably unconstitutional.”

“If there’s anywhere that should allow more free speech, it’s the universities and colleges,” Lukianoff said.

In fact, CSU and any university campus are the places where people should test the waters of the First Amendment, Lukianoff said.

“Sometimes free speech is not just a right, it’s a duty,” Lukianoff said.

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