Victory for Free Speech: Columbus State CC Eliminates Free Speech Zone Policy

By September 23, 2013

Four weeks after Columbus State Community College (CSCC) student Spencer Anderson filed a lawsuit against the school challenging its policies on student expression, CSCC has revised its policies to allow individuals and groups smaller than 50 people to use the vast majority of outdoor campus space for speech without notifying the school in advance. Before the change, CSCC limited public speech to just two small areas of campus and required students to ask for permission to use even those areas at least one business day in advance. Anderson’s suit contended that the policy was unconstitutional on its face and that it was selectively enforced against him when he was told he could hand out flyers only in the less well-traveled speech area. While awaiting the CSCC board of trustees’ vote on the policy change, Anderson’s attorneys stated that they would be willing to settle out of court. Following CSCC’s policy change, students may now speak publicly, hand out flyers, and display signs in any “publicly accessible outdoor area” besides parking lots, garages, and driveways, as long as the students are not disrupting ordinary college business or damaging property. Events involving more than 50 students will still have to provide the school with two days’ notice.  CSCC’s new policy is a significant and welcome change from its old rules, which likely would have been defeated in court as the University of Cincinnati’s similar policies were in 2012. According to The Columbus Dispatch, CSCC said the revisions were in the works long before Anderson filed his suit against the school. CSCC may have needed the extra motivation of an impending lawsuit to finalize the changes, but FIRE is glad to see CSCC finally take this critical step in protecting students’ rights. Stay tuned to The Torch for updates on Anderson’s case.Image: Columbus State Community College Campus - Wikipedia