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University of Georgia Revises Policy on Freedom of Expression, Ending Student Lawsuit

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, the University of Georgia (UGA) chapter of the student organization Young Americans for Liberty has settled its free speech lawsuit against UGA after the university revised its policy on free expression.

UGA’s previous Policy on Freedom of Expression established just two areas on campus for spontaneous student expression, requiring students gathering elsewhere to obtain a permit at least 48 hours in advance of their expressive activity. The new policy makes spontaneous student expression easier, keeping the two “Free Expression Areas” but also allowing for spontaneous speech elsewhere on campus under certain circumstances:

Members of the University Community may also engage in spontaneous expressive activity without a reservation in publicly accessible areas of campus other than the designated Free Expression Areas only if the spontaneous expressive activity:

a. is prompted by news or affairs coming into public knowledge less than forty-eight hours prior to such event;

b. is not planned more than 24 hours in advance, making it impractical to make a reservation in accordance with Section I.A., above;

c. takes place in open, generally accessible outdoor areas of campus;

d. adheres to the time, place, and manner restrictions set forth in Section C,    below; and

e. involves less than ten (10) persons; provided, however, that if the spontaneous expressive activity involves ten (10) or more persons, the expressive activity may continue only if immediate notice is provided to the Associate Dean of Students by calling (706) 542-7774 during normal business hours. If the spontaneous expressive activity occurs after normal business hours or on weekends, immediate notice must be provided by calling the University Police Shift Commander at (706) 542-2200.

While this policy does allow for a fair amount of spontaneous student expression, I must say it feels pretty grudging. One doesn’t get the sense that UGA actually appreciates the importance of student expression; it was dragged kicking and screaming into being less restrictive. Still, the end result is that UGA students are now freer to engage in expressive activities in the location of their choice, and that is a happy ending.

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