Victory for Freedom of Speech: University of Nevada at Reno Abolishes ‘Free Speech Zones’

June 28, 2006

RENO, Nev., June 28, 2006—Students at the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) are freer today, thanks to a new policy that designates the entire campus—save the interior of university buildings—as an “open public forum area.”

“We are thrilled that UNR has taken such decisive action to protect its students’ free speech rights,” stated Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “This is truly a victory for liberty, and we commend the students and administrators who made this happen.”

As FIRE reported in April, the university’s previous policy designated only four small or remote areas on UNR’s campus as “‘public forum’ areas,” and explicitly deemed the rest of the campus a non-public forum. Student activists, working with FIRE and the ACLU of Nevada, protested this unconstitutional policy and proposed a new policy that would open the public university campus to free speech. The students worked closely with UNR administrators, who approved the policy earlier this month.

UNR rising junior James Girnus, who in April publicly challenged the university to abolish its free speech zones, is thrilled with the new policy. “I’m extremely proud of being a UNR student right now,” said Girnus.  “A group of students was able to transform UNR’s unconstitutional zoned speech into a new free speech policy that encourages students to express themselves.”

FIRE’s work against so-called free speech zones began over four years ago at West Virginia University. After a long campaign of public pressure from FIRE, WVU finally abandoned its “free speech zones,” but the trend of confining free speech to small areas persists on many other campuses. Thanks to the hard work of UNR students and administrators, UNR is no longer one of these campuses.

“So-called free speech zones are an odd and highly inappropriate part of too many campuses’ policies these days. We hope that other universities will realize that free speech should not be quarantined on campus,” concluded FIRE’s Lukianoff. “We also hope that the hard work and great success of the UNR student activists will inspire students everywhere to stand up for the rights they deserve.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at the University of Nevada at Reno can be viewed at thefire.org/unr.

CONTACT:
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg_lukianoff@thefire.org

Schools: University of Nevada, Reno Cases: University of Nevada at Reno: Unconstitutional Free Speech Zone Policy