Melissa Brown wrote for AL.com (the online presence of several Alabama newspapers) yesterday to bring local attention to FIRE’s letter to the University of Alabama (UA) about its requirement that students obtain a permit several days in advance of distributing flyers and leaflets. As we reported yesterday, UA has not responded to our letter. Brown noted that UA students share FIRE’s concerns about the school’s grounds use policy. The editorial board of the The Crimson White, UA’s student newspaper, wrote in February to advocate for policy changes after university police officers halted filming of a Harlem Shake video. The Board’s comments then ring true still: [T]he last thing UA needs to do ... is stand behind its antiquated policy that stifles free speech and racial, organizational and cultural integration on this campus. This policy needs to change, and students need to press for this change. At the The Volokh Conspiracy earlier today, UCLA Law professor and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh also commented on the leafleting policy: This policy means that student groups aren’t allowed to speak on campus — whether by leafleting or in other organized ways, such as by displaying signs and the like — in any spontaneous response to pressing events. If one group organizes an event, another group can’t promptly respond to it, unless the second group somehow gets wind of the event many days before. If there’s an important and unexpected incident, at home or abroad, a group can’t spontaneously react to it, whether in anger, mourning, celebration, or what have you. And that’s true not just for massive events that can be expected to interfere with pedestrian traffic, require police protection, call for extra cleanup, or the like; it’s true even for a few students getting together to express themselves... Read the rest of Volokh’s analysis at The Volokh Conspiracy and check out Brown’s article on AL.com.
During this term, the nine Justices will hear at least four cases with profound First Amendment and free speech implications for all Americans.