Missouri ‘Free Speech Zone’ Ban Forces Public School to Change its Policy

August 28, 2015

By Meghan Keenan at Red Alert Politics

A recent change in state law has prompted Missouri State University to change its free speech policy.

On Wednesday, the MSU Board of Governors executive committee revised the school’s policy restricting non-university individuals and groups from speaking freely on all areas of campus.

MSU’s former policy specified that individuals and groups not affiliated with the university were only allowed to share opinions on designated city sidewalks and at three “public forum” locations on campus.

“We limited where outside groups could be,” MSU President Clif Smart told the Springfield News-Leader. The new law says we can’t do that.”

Under the Campus Free Expression Act (CAFE Act) signed into law by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on July 14, 2015, all outdoor areas of campus are deemed “traditional public forums” at all of the state’s public universities.

Also, under the new state law, free speech cannot be limited to the MSU community, but must be open to “any person who wishes to engage in noncommercial expressive activity on campus.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worked with members of the Missouri state legislature to pass the law.

“One in six public colleges in the United States use free speech zones to restrict student speech,” said FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn. “Thanks to the CAFE Act, and to all of those who fought so hard to get it passed, Missouri is now the second state to statutorily ensure that its public colleges and universities will no longer be among them.”

Virginia also has a law that prevents public colleges from having designated free speech zones.