Ten days ago, Peter reported that a controversial and repressive "free speech zone" policy at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has been withdrawn by NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs, who had first proposed the unconstitutional measure in November. As we have noted before on The Torch, the proposed policy was blatantly unconstitutional, demanding—among other things—a minimum of one week’s notice for NEIU community members wishing to hold events and demonstrations on campus, as well as prior approval over all materials to be displayed and distributed at such events.
FIRE remains in touch with members of the NEIU faculty and Student Government Association (SGA). Undocumented reports have it that student groups still must submit their protest signs ahead of time. In addition, we have just learned that SGA Senator Brad Minor has formally asked the Senate to rescind its support for the now-withdrawn policy, support that it had given hastily and under time pressure. The bill reads, in relevant part:
Whereas, the student body has made it abundantly clear that it does not support the DDS policy as endorsed by the SGA Senate.
Whereas, new information has been brought to light by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education regarding the possible unconstitutionality of the "free speech zones" which this policy would have created.
Whereas, student voices should not be subjected to subjective censorship by the administration.
Whereas, this policy attempts to go beyond the "reasonable time, place and manner" restrictions established by the Supreme Court in Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989).
Whereas, the SGA Senate did not spend an adequate amount of time deliberating this important policy due to time constraints and did not seek expert counsel in order to fully understand the complicated language contained in the document before offering its swift endorsement.
Whereas, the SGA Senate still supports the document in principle but cannot support its subjective approval processes or its potentially unconstitutional elements.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
The NEIU SGA Senate as representatives of the NEIU student body and the voice of the NEIU SGA hereby withdraw endorsement of the DDS policy and retract any and all statements made in Senate Bill 12/18/08-154.
FIRE hopes that when the SGA meets on Thursday, students will stand up for their rights this time.