The Spectator, Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) student newspaper, ran an article yesterday about FIRE’s victory at VSU after VSU’s new president, Patrick Schloss, replaced the university’s "Free Expression Area" policy with a "General Public Forum Venue" policy. The old policy was awarded the dubious distinction of FIRE’s March 2008 Speech Code of the Month for, on its face, relegating speech to a tiny stage on the entire VSU campus for only two hours on weekdays. VSU’s free speech zone came to FIRE’s attention after former VSU president Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes for posting a collage on Facebook.com criticizing VSU’s plan to build new parking garages on campus.
Most noteworthy is a timeline The Spectator has posted detailing the order of events for the entire ordeal, beginning with Barnes’s Facebook post on April 13, 2007, and ending with the issuance of VSU’s new policy yesterday—appropriately, on Constitution Day.
The Spectator observes that FIRE removed VSU from its Red Alert list because VSU President Schloss has taken serious steps to address FIRE’s concerns and reform his policies to accord with the protections of the First Amendment. This is just as FIRE promised last month. The Red Alert list is only for schools that show a deliberate and continuing disregard for the liberties of their students or faculty. Although the wording of VSU’s new policy could be clearer, VSU thankfully no longer fits this description. FIRE is pleased that The Spectator has drawn attention to this significant step forward in individual rights at VSU.