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Cleveland State Adopts New Campus Speech Policy, Shows Why It’s a ‘Green Light’ School

Cleveland State University (CSU) has adopted an “Expressive Activity Policy” to clarify and safeguard the free speech rights afforded to its students under the First Amendment. The CSU policy, adopted November 30, 2015, uses the same language as the policy that was previously developed in a collaborative effort between FIRE and the University of Toledo (UT), a result that FIRE finds to be both commendable and satisfying.

Torch readers may remember that in September 2014, a group of students at UT was prevented from peacefully protesting at a campus lecture given by former presidential advisor Karl Rove. FIRE wrote to UT regarding its unconstitutional censorship of the protestors’ activity. In response, UT worked with FIRE to create a new “Expression on Campus” policy. The new policy, which took effect on June 1 of last year, is an affirmative statement upholding students’ First Amendment rights, including the right to peaceful protest and demonstration.

In November, CSU—which already maintains a “green light” rating from FIRE for its policies that protect speech on campus—followed UT’s lead.

CSU Chief Compliance Officer Rachel King explained that the university never had an official policy affirmatively providing the right to public demonstrations on campus, and that the university “just made this policy to make it clear.”

The policy states, in relevant part: “Any person or group may use, without prior notification, any publicly accessible outdoor area of the university's campus except parking lots, garages and driveways.” It explicitly affirms the wide range of public expression available to the students:

Use of the general access areas may include speaking, non-verbal expression, distributing literature, displaying signage and circulating petitions. There is no limit to the number of times a month a person or group may access those areas.

Out of the more than 400 colleges and universities rated in FIRE’s Spotlight database, CSU is one of only 24 schools to have earned a prestigious green light rating. CSU’s latest policy addition is a great show of support for freedom of expression, and is certainly befitting of a green light institution. Other institutions should follow its lead.

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