Group for free speech rallies on CSU campus

April 12, 2007

A group of Colorado State University students concerned about university infringements on their Constitutional rights to free speech had a rally Wednesday on the west lawn of the Lory Student Center.

Libertarian Party of Colorado State University Chairman Seth Anthony, a CSU graduate student, organized the rally—in which media members outnumbered participants—in hope of clarifying rules the university uses to regulate assemblies and posting of fliers in dormitories.

The rally effort was followed up by the introduction of a resolution at Wednesday night’s Associated Students of Colorado State University meeting that asked the university’s administration to review and modify any existing policies that may infringe on students’ First Amendment rights.

Anthony’s problems with CSU policies began last year when his group attempted to post fliers in university dormitories supporting Amendment 44—a failed state initiative that proposed making possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in Colorado legal.

Anthony said the fliers, which reportedly included an image of a marijuana leaf, were initially prohibited by the university from being posted.

“(CSU’s administration) changed their mind because we were going to cause a big fuss with the media,” said Ben Prytherch, CSU Libertarian Party treasurer who was attending Wednesday’s rally.

Anthony and the Libertarians later solicited the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a Philadelphia-based free-speech policy group that focuses on campus issues.

In March, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy, Samantha Harris, sent CSU President Larry Penleya letter asking that he review the “Advertising Policy” in the university’s Resident Hall Handbook as well as ‘Hate Incidents” and “Peaceful Assembly at CSU,” policies that she wrote “Prohibits an entire category of constitutionally protected speech, which is simply unacceptable at a public university such as Colorado State.”

Loretta Martinez, CSU’s general counsel, responded to FIRE’s concerns two weeks later by letter. Martinez wrote that the university would clarify its policy on assembly—which it said is allowed at numerous locations on and off campus without notification—but defended its right to restrict the content of fliers posted at dormitories out of respect to students’ “well being and privacy.”

“We are pleased that the university clarified its policy regarding assembly,” Harris said. “We are disappointed that the university is standing by other policies that restrict First Amendment rights.”

CSU spokesman Brad Bohlandersaid that the intent of the policies is to protect students in their homes and not to restrict free speech on campus.

“We have a long standing commitment to free speech on campus,” Bohlander said. “We are presently reviewing those policies.”

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Schools: Colorado State University Cases: Colorado State University: Students Fight for Rights to Free Speech and Assembly