Clemson University’s student newspaper The Tiger reports this morning on FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley’s recent appearance on the Clemson campus. Robert addressed a group of Clemson students and administrators on Tuesday night, speaking about FIRE’s opposition to free speech zones at the university and larger concerns about freedom of speech on public campuses.
FIRE intervened at Clemson in November, 2006, when the Clemson Conservatives were barred from holding a protest outside Clemson’s free speech zone. FIRE wrote to Clemson President James Baker reminding him that a public university campus cannot lawfully quarantine free speech to small, inconvenient areas of campus. Within days, Clemson administrators notified the community that they would begin reviewing the speech zone policies and that during the review period the entire campus would be open to student assembly and expression.
Joy Smith, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Clemson, told The Tiger, “My former understanding was that the policy met the tests of time, place and manner, but after hearing Shibley speak about the First Amendment and looking at the policy more carefully, the complaint made sense…The policy is in the hands of the university’s legal council, and they’re in the process of writing a new policy."
Robert also addressed the recent controversy on Clemson’s campus over a gangster theme party on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:
These students had the right to choose any theme for a non-violent party they wanted under the First Amendment, but we have a moral responsibility to respect others. Although there is no set balance, people cross the line when words become actions.
“He enlightened a lot of students about the problem that existed at Clemson and their rights,” student Jason Gainey told The Tiger. “I hope Shibley made the administration aware that our student body is serious about the issue of free speech, and we will follow it up.”