LSU Sued by Student, ADF over Free Speech Zone

By November 5, 2012

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is suing Louisiana State University (LSU) on behalf of an LSU student over the university’s maintenance of a "free speech zone" restricting student campus expression.

According to ADF, LSU prohibits students from distributing written materials anywhere on campus except for a solitary "Free Speech Alley," which only comprises approximately 1,000 square feet of the public university’s 650-acre campus. This represents less than one percent of the campus. The lawsuit, Candler v. Jenkins, concerns the right of a student to pass out pro-life literature in other, open areas of campus. The student was not only told that she would have to limit herself to the designated area, but that students and student organizations must register with the Office of Campus Life ahead of time in order to conduct such expressive activity.

On these facts, LSU would be well advised to settle the suit and change its policy to open up much more of its campus to free expression. The maintenance of a restrictive free speech zone at a public university is a clear First Amendment violation, as most recently demonstrated in a lawsuit coordinated by FIRE this year at the University of Cincinnati (UC). In that case, a federal district court in Ohio permanently enjoined UC from enforcing its policy limiting campus expressive activities to a single area making up just 0.1 percent of the university’s 137-acre West Campus. That decision not only vindicated student rights at UC, it vindicated FIRE’s repeated warnings to UC that its free speech zone did not pass constitutional muster.

Moreover, LSU’s "Free Speech Alley" immediately enters the lexicon of memorable names for university free speech zone policies. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, the "Alley" joins such luminaries as Southwestern College’s "free speech patio," Valdosta State University’s "free speech stage," and Texas Tech University’s "free speech gazebo." These policies are a part of FIRE lore—not only for their sheer ridiculousness, but also for the way they illustrate how restrictive campus free speech zones can be. These memorably named zones all failed under the weight of public pressure or litigation; LSU’s policy is cut from the same cloth, so hopefully LSU will take this track record as a hint.

We will keep you updated about ADF’s lawsuit against LSU here on The Torch.