The Cost of Abridging Freedom of Speech

August 8, 2006
What is the exact cost that a university could incur for not defending the freedom of speech?  If you were to ask administrators at University of Arkansas, they would tell you that its $33,120, the amount a federal judge recently ordered the university to pay for violating a campus preacher’s free speech rights.
Public universities are quick to forget that there is not just a moral obligation but also a legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment.  Public universities that neglect this duty can face lawsuits that can bring about not only bad publicity but also large monetary judgments. 
Maybe Arkansas’s example will remind university officials that while ignoring the moral obligation to support a free exchange of ideas may only bring about bad publicity, ignoring their legal obligations will result in more substantial penalties, enforced by court order.