University of Kentucky Offers Students First Amendment Violations in Two Flavors

January 21, 2015

The University of Kentucky (UK) has apparently failed to notice that universities are increasingly being forced to get rid of their ironically named “free speech zones,” whether by state legislation or costly lawsuits. UK currently maintains two “Designated Unrestricted Areas,” which constitute the small fraction of the campus where a reservation is not required for students who wish to express themselves. But don’t worry—students are now able to provide their input on the matter through a survey developed by UK’s student government and approved by a faculty advisor. It asks students: “Which is your preferred University policy on free speech on campus?”

Those scanning the answer choices for something to the effect of “abide by UK’s legal and moral obligations under the Constitution by keeping most outdoor areas available for speech, with no reservations necessary” will be sorely disappointed. Here are students’ choices:

  • A single designated free speech zone in a specific location on campus
  • Multiple designated free speech zones in various locations across campus
  • No preference

That’s it? Not even a write-in option? The message this sends is that UK students are expected not only to tolerate restrictions on speech but to prefer them over a truly open campus. If that’s true, talk about unlearning liberty!

As Campus Reform’s Kaitlyn Schallhorn pointed out in her article yesterday publicizing the survey, UK has several “yellow light” policies, which could easily be used to punish constitutionally protected speech. The fact that the UK student government cannot even conceive of the possibility of ditching free speech zones is not an encouraging sign that UK is moving in the right direction. Prospective students who value free expression should consider going to one of Kentucky’s two “green light” schools—Eastern Kentucky University and Georgetown College—instead.

Schools:  University of Kentucky