University Will Eliminate ‘Free Speech Zones’ After Legal Pressure
The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) will eliminate several speech policies that restrict free speech after settling a lawsuit filed by a student organization, according to the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
The university agreed to eliminate its “free speech zones,” which are designated areas for public speech, and a policy that required students to obtain a permit three days in advance before speaking on campus property, according to ADF’s press release. ADF represented the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter and student Joshua Greer, who alleged that the university enforced on-campus speech codes that violated the Alabama Campus Free Speech Act and the state constitution.
“College students have the freedom to share their beliefs anywhere on campus; they don’t need permission from college officials to speak, nor should they have to jump through burdensome and illegal hoops just to talk with their classmates outside,” Tyson Langhofer, ADF senior counsel and Center for Academic Freedom director, said in the press release. “Alabama state law guarantees that all students at public universities can freely speak outdoors on campus grounds. We commend the University of Alabama in Huntsville for doing the right thing by amending its policy to respect students’ free speech rights.”
FREE SPEECH WIN: ADF attorneys have favorably settled a lawsuit on behalf of an @YALiberty chapter against the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The university has agreed to change its policy to respect the free speech rights of students on campus.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) April 4, 2023
The Circuit Court of Madison County issued a consent order on Monday affirming that the lawsuit would be dropped once the policy changes were made. The lawsuit was filed in July 2021, according to the complaint.
The free speech watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), published a survey which found that a majority of colleges has at least one policy that violates freedom of speech. The topic has garnered nationwide interest, and a Congressional subcommittee held a hearing on March 29 titled “Diversity of Thought: Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses.
“Often, universities deny that their illegal restrictions on speech prevent students from speaking and assembling freely. However, when we see cases such as this—where a university goes to great lengths to defend its restrictions—we understand that actions are louder than words and that students must be vigilant and stick to their principles against university bureaucrats,” JP Kirby, YAL director of Student Rights, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’m thankful for Joshua Greer, the YAL team, and Alliance Defending Freedom for seeing this fight through to the end. We will continue to use this momentum to fight for student free speech in Alabama.”
UAH and ADF did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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