University of Cincinnati: Speech Code Litigation

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Cincinnati

In 2012, FIRE coordinated a legal challenge to an unconstitutional free speech zone policy at the University of Cincinnati (UC) that limited all “demonstrations, pickets, and rallies” to a “Free Speech Area” comprising just 0.1% of the university’s 137-acre West Campus. The policy further required all activity in the free speech zone to be registered ten working days in advance, threatening that “[a]nyone violating this policy may be charged with trespassing.” After UC’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter was told it could not gather signatures and talk to students across campus in support of a statewide “right to work” ballot initiative, FIRE secured the assistance of Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law for YAL’s lawsuit. In June 2012, United States District Judge Timothy S. Black held that the policy “violates the First Amendment and cannot stand” and issued a preliminary injunction against its enforcement. Black then issued a permanent injunction in August 2012, forbidding the policy’s reinstatement. UC’s loss in court follows years of ignoring FIRE’s warnings about the policy’s constitutional flaws dating back to December 2007, when it was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month.