Update on the Continuing Controversy at UCSB

February 27, 2013

As Torch readers may remember, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB’s) Associated Student Senate sparked debate last week when it passed a resolution condemning two Facebook pages that publicize social interactions at the school—”UCSB Hook-Ups” and “UCSB Confessions.” As FIRE explained, not only did the resolution condemn the sites as offensive, it also called on the Senate staff and university administrators to attempt to influence Facebook to censor the pages. If the school were to follow through on this request and get the pages shut down, that act would certainly be unconstitutional.

Today, UCSB’s student newspaper The Daily Nexus provided an update on the continuing debate over the resolution, reporting that “the bill has garnered a considerable amount of criticism from campus community members, with some students claiming it acts as a means of censorship by violating the First Amendment right to free speech.”

Fortunately, administrators at UCSB have recognized the resolution’s problems. Associate Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead told The Daily Nexus that the university “cannot and will not actively seek to shut down or, in any way, censor the pages.”

Concerned students will challenge the resolution at a Senate meeting tonight, with the school’s College Republicans chapter leading the charge. The organization’s executive director, Sara Callahan, told The Daily Nexus that “[t]he point of the First Amendment is to protect speech that is unpopular, or may be not as nice and glossy and glamorized. This [is] exactly the case when the First Amendment should be enforced.”

We couldn’t agree more.

FIRE is happy to see students standing up for the First Amendment at UCSB, and we are equally pleased that the university’s administrators have recognized the need to respect free expression on campus. We will continue to watch for developments.