As far too many students sadly know, the vocabulary of campus free speech zones provides a ready example of the absurdity of campus censorship. This year, administrators at Modesto Junior College proved just how far that absurdity extends when they prohibited student Robert Van Tuinen from distributing copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day simply because he hadn’t met the requirements of the school’s free speech zone policy.
Robert’s experience isn’t all that unique. Rather than celebrating free expression, too many of our colleges and universities confine it to small areas, restrict it with limited hours and excessive regulations, and stymie it with advance registration requirements.
Fortunately, FIRE exists to expose the reality of these restrictions and to help dismantle them. Since our founding in 1999, FIRE has tackled some of the nation’s most shocking free speech zone policies, working with student and faculty activists to open campuses to free expression.
But FIRE can’t fight these free speech zones alone. FIRE depends on the support of our donors to challenge—and defeat—the nation’s worst policies.
That support helps students like Chris Morbitzer, an activist at the University of Cincinnati who recently described his challenge of the university’s policies as a “David versus Goliath” battle.
Thankfully, FIRE was able to give Chris the support he needed, helping him file a lawsuit that successfully challenged his school’s policies and opened the entire University of Cincinnati campus to free expression. That victory is one of many for FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Project, which enjoys a 100% success rate. That success rate translates into real reform for students, who no longer have to face the absurdity of a “free speech gazebo” or an advance registration requirement. In 2013 alone, FIRE’s legal efforts secured important victories that have freed more than 40,000 students from restrictive policies.
Unfortunately, much work remains to be done. While FIRE is proud of our 100% success rate, we also recognize that hundreds of students just like Chris Morbitzer and Robert Van Tuinen still face the “rigmarole” of unconstitutional free speech zones. In fact, according to FIRE’s research, roughly one in six colleges and universities have free speech zone policies. In order to fight these policies, we need yourhelp.
By donating today, you can empower FIRE and students just like Chris in our “David versus Goliath” struggle against campus speech codes and free speech zones, providing the resources necessary to expose, revise, challenge, and defeat the policies at the heart of the culture of campus censorship.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation today!
Image: Matthew Reeps, posing in his school's free speech zone while it is under construction - photo courtesy Matthew Reeps