Fairmont State University: Permission Required for Student to Gather Signatures on Campus

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Fairmont State University

On August 30, 2016, Fairmont State University (FSU) student Dustin Winski attempted to collect signatures in support of national campus libertarian group Young Americans for Liberty. After less than an hour, an FSU campus police officer approached Winski claiming to have received complaints from students who were “freaked out” by Winski’s canvassing. The officer asked Winski if he had obtained permission to gather signatures and, learning that he had not, warned Winski that “soliciting requires you to . . . ask permission to do it.” When Winski sought clarification from an administrator, he was told that Fairmont State’s decision to require a permit would rest on “a judgment call based on campus security and what they feel is soliciting.” On October 7, 2016, FIRE wrote to FSU President Maria C. Bennett Rose, asking the university to revise its “Solicitation” policy to make clear to students that they do not need to ask permission to engage in protected political expression on the open areas of campus. On April 20, 2017, FSU’s Board of Governors voted to revise the unconstitutional aspects of the policy.