FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2008: Valdosta State University.
Valdosta State, a public university with over 11,000 students, maintains just one small “Free Expression Area” on campus: the stage on the Palms Quadrangle (the idea of a “free speech stage” sounds almost as ridiculous as Texas Tech’s infamous “free speech gazebo,” doesn’t it?). A quick look at a map of Valdosta’s campus shows how small this area is. As if this weren’t bad enough, the Free Expression Area may only be used between the hours of noon and 1 pm and/or 5 and 6 pm-that’s a whopping 2 hours a day! To put the nail in the constitutional coffin, “48 hours advanced notice is required” to use the Free Expression Area, “and this notice will not be waived.”
After reading this policy, it is hard to come up with anything to say other than “what were they thinking?!?” I never thought I would see a free speech zone worse than the one at McNeese State University (our July 2007 Speech Code of the Month), but I can conclusively say that Valdosta State has even outdone what I once referred to on these pages as “the mother of all free speech zone policies.”
As Torch readers know, Valdosta State is no stranger to censorship—it is the university that expelled Hayden Barnes for peacefully protesting the construction of new parking garages on campus, and is one of only four universities on FIRE’s Red Alert list, a list of schools that act with severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of their students or faculty members.
For these reasons, Valdosta State University is our March 2008 Speech Code of the Month. If you believe that your college or university should be a Speech Code of the Month, please email email@example.com with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to this code.