Students Have the Power to Effect Change

June 29, 2006

If FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program (IREP) had a motto, I think it would be “helping students help themselves.” The mission of IREP is to educate members of the university community about their rights, so that they can successfully stand up for those rights on campus. In recent months, several students have successfully overturned speech codes on their campuses with help from IREP.
Earlier this year, student activists at Appalachian State University successfully challenged their university’s unconstitutional speech code after reading a report by FIRE and the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy about the state of the First Amendment at North Carolina’s public universities. And this month, a group of students at the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) not only convinced the university to repeal an unconstitutional free speech zone policy, but actually drafted a new policy that the university eventually adopted!  
UNR student activists first contacted FIRE in March about UNR’s Public Forum Policy, which at the time restricted free speech to four small or remote areas of UNR’s campus. We spoke with them about UNR’s policy and shared with them our belief that the policy violated the First Amendment. We provided them with case law addressing the constitutionality of “free speech zones” at other universities. With this ammunition, the students not only argued passionately against UNR’s policy but also drafted a new policy opening the entire campus to free speech. This month, UNR adopted that policy. We at FIRE couldn’t be prouder of the hard and heartfelt work these students put in on behalf of their constitutional rights, and we are happy that we were able to provide them with resources to assist them in their fight for liberty.

Schools:  University of Nevada, Reno