Yesterday, FIRE announced that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia decided at long last to acknowledge the First Amendment and reverse T. Hayden Barnes’s expulsion from Valdosta State University (VSU). Today, both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education cover the long-overdue vindication of Barnes’s rights.
The Chronicle article (subscription required) includes an extensive discussion of Barnes’s ongoing lawsuit against VSU. Regarding the Board of Regents’ reversal, Barnes told the Chronicle:
It certainly would appear to most people, including me, that this is some admission of wrongdoing…they can either enter negotiations toward a reasonable settlement, or we can have an expensive, embarrassing, public federal trial in Atlanta.
In its discussion, Inside Higher Ed points out yet another constitutional issue at VSU: the university’s prohibitively small “free speech zone,” “which mandates a single ‘free expression area’ on the 168-acre campus.” Discussing the zone, FIRE’s Will Creeley told Inside Higher Ed that “[w]hat we’re hoping ... is that once Valdosta State starts to see people are concerned about First Amendment rights on campus, then they will correct their policies ... without further litigation.”
Both of these articles make clear that while the Board of Regents’s decision was a step in the right direction as far as students’ constitutional rights are concerned, VSU still has a long way to go towards restoring rights on campus, and neither FIRE nor Hayden Barnes has any intention of giving up the fight until that happens.