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Tick, tock: Western Illinois University’s ‘free speech area’ still running the clock

Earlier this month, we wrote about how Western Illinois University pledged to abandon its “free speech area” in 2003 but still scatters references to the supposedly discontinued area in its policies. The university’s police apparently did not believe that the free speech area had been closed, as they were still attempting to enforce it earlier this year when students advocated the legalization of marijuana elsewhere on campus. Despite a letter from FIRE earlier this summer, the dated references to the free speech area remain online.

Just how long have these policies been in place since the university first announced it was erasing the free speech area?

Here’s a handy clock to help keep track — and any time you want to check in to see if it’s still running (it never runs out of batteries), you can access it via an easy-to-remember address:

WIU Clock Final: 6,118 days

What’s happened in that time?

  • Four presidential elections
  • 78 dog years
  • Five “Star Wars” films released (including “Rogue One” and “Solo”)
  • Thirteen nations joined the European Union
  • YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram were launched
  • Apple introduced the iPhone
  • The entire Iraq War
  • 59 editions of “Now That’s What I Call Music!”
  • 14 seasons of “America’s Got Talent” and 16 seasons of “The Simpsons”
  • The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros ended historically long World Series droughts. 

What hasn’t happened in that time? 

  • Western Illinois University revising its policies to eliminate references to its “free speech area”

WIU’s predicament is an example of why universities should take care to periodically review their policies for consistency with both the law and with other university policies. If conflicting, outdated policies are left in place, they create the risk that authorities will use them. 

Let WIU’s administration know that the clock is running:

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