SFSU Eliminates Free Speech Zones

By 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 SFSUa university of more than 30,000 studentswere 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 long as pedestrian traffic is not impeded." There are no free speech zones specified for rallies and demonstrations, and while the policy does require advanced reservations for outdoor student events, it specifically makes an exception for "[s]pontaneous events occasioned by news or issues coming into public knowledge," which "may be held on campus without advance permission so long as they adhere to all University policies…."

This is certainly a positive development at a university that just a few years ago investigated students for an on-campus demonstration, and subsequently suffered a defeat in court with respect to several of its speech codes. Unfortunately, several more unconstitutional speech codes still remain on the books at SFSU; you can read about them here.

Kudos to SFSU for eliminating some of its unnecessarily restrictive policies, and here’s hoping it keeps up the good work and gets rid of all of the remaining speech codes.

Schools: San Francisco State University Cases: San Francisco State University: Speech Code Litigation Project