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February 20, 2008 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2008-02-20

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(ABOVE) Rackham student Kiri Sailiata hangs fliers on the widely used posting wall in Mason Hall. The walls and lobby area have provided students a simple means of publicizing events that LSA's proposed publication distribution plic
presented by publications littered on the ground prompted the creation of the policy.
Like many of its public peers, the University has adopted policies that restrict free speech. But legal experts
regulations - like the reasoning behind a new LSA distribution policy that compares litter to yelling "Fire!" in a

y could hinder. (RIGHT) University adwinistraters say danger
say arguments for some of the
movie theater - don't add up.

T HE ARTS announced aifew policy that would regulate the distribution
and posting of publications iers and signs in LSAbuildings, free speech advo-
cates cried foul. The pol y, which would only grant distribution rights during
fall and winter semest rs to student groups that comply with registration and
content criteria, segried to many a blatant violation of the First Amendment.
It's counter-intuiire - a public institution that limits the speech of the public.
The Universjiy's Faculty Handbook states, "Because the search for knowl-
edge is our ep6st fundamental purpose, the University has an especially strong
commitm~ft to preserve and protect freedom of thought and expression."
But regulation of public speech is all but removed from the University's poli-
cies. Th'e same could be said for many of the University's public peers. In the age
of wlit journalist Michael Gould-Wartofsky described as the "homeland secu-
ritygampus," restriction of speech by universities through the establishment of
content codes and official "free-speech zones" is more common than ever.
As was the case in the University's explanation of the LSA distribution pol-
icy, universities that enforce such policies have justified them using a line of
atgument many free speech advocates reject. But between differing interpreta-
tipns of First Amendment rights and existing University policies, one question
relnains: How "free" is free speech at the University of Michigan?
Everyone knows the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of
the 1tpess. But there are limits. Courts have said that "time, place and manner"
restrich ns on speech are OK. That's what prohibits yelling "Fire!" in a crowd-
ed movie t ater. By definition, "time, place and manner" restrictions are con-
tent-neutral, na uly focused restrictions on speech or expression that serve
a governmental purpose. UFrhUniversity's purposes, the idanger-of-slipjing
and falling on a discarded flier outside t e FishbowTis akin to the chaos that
might ensue following the warning of a fictitious fire. Discarded fliers and pub-
lications, the University claims, are a form of unregulated speech that presents
an unnecessary threat to people in the area.
The University of Michigan isn't the first school to extend the "time, place
and manner" restriction to its own policies.
Two years ago, the University of Central Florida created what it called "free

assembly areas," which were four areas on the university's campus selected Activities and Leadership, submitting information about the nature of their student publications in racks with multiple shelves like those in the Michi- making them subject to
"for the conduct of political activity and other exercises of free speech." event and how much it will cost the organization. In the case of the Diag, poli- gan Union, which hold 20 to 30 publications. Johnston said the nodes would ing can be declared pr
University of Central Florida President John Hitt said in an e-mail to the cies created by the office of the Dean of Students mandate that only student replace the separate racks now used for different publications. He also said if its responsibility to uph
Foundation for tndividual Rights in Education, a campus free speech watch- groups that arer hrhjMichiganSidentAagmbly or people who the plan for the publication racks is implemented, it would be likely that pub- Amendment, Rosen said
doggroup, that the university created the free-speech zones so that large num- are la ith a University depa tint can set up ta'bte.qse amplifiers lications would only be distributed in three LSA buildings containing publica- Adam Goldstein, an
bers of people could "gather with enhanced sound and conduct rallies without rorga kingexrnt on the Diag. The.-University also mandates that tion nodes: the Chemistry Building, the Modern Language Building and Haven a non-profit organizatit
interfering with university business." e the Diag can only ottbetween 8 a.m. ih47 p.m. or nightfalunless Hall. To several legal experts, the plan seemed like an attempt to limit speech said looking at restricti
Hitt justified the creation of the policy, which barred public organizati'i n rganization receives approval the Office Student Activitie and similar to the free assembly areas at other universities, exce 'p ca- argument of whether a 1
or demonstrations anywhere else on the campus, by citing "time, place Ladership and pays an $86 overtime char\ tions instead of organizing and demonstration. Declaring a building
manner." /e The University is now looking to extend th ' e, pla and manner" c - While "time, place and manner" considerations e the basis for many speech \University's responsibil
"U.S. courts have long held that speech may lawfully be regulat with /sideration to restrict the distribution of paper ma ials ip University buil - regulation policies on college campuses, the iversity also uses another inter- h ve access to the build
regard to time, manner and place," Hitt said in his e-mail to FIRE 'We are ings with LSA's new student publication policy. But fr -s'eech advocates s ,y pretation of the First Amendment's scopei its argument for limiting speech in kt's not like (a buildii
confident that we are within our constitutional rights in upholdi our poli-/ the University's claim that littered publications could c se injuries is not nak- campus buildings. The University 1yers claim that although the University close and you get no ri,
cy." rowly targeted enough to fall under the consideratio si ce limiting distrib- is a public institution, its buil s are private. Assistant General Counsel Maya of Righ s goes with it, a
The University of California at San Diego revised its public secN policie$ tion rights would not prevent pre-approved pub' atiojs from being drop'ed Kobersy said because Uni sity buildings aren't "clearly open" to all members of Rights."
in June to define free-speech zones, select areas on campus whe pb ic dem on the ground. / the public at all times ey are private and, therefore, are not legally bound to the Membe of the Board
onstrations would be permitted. The revised policy also mandatid th use
the forum take place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. and that any dssembl witV AT U N I cR
more than 10 participants makes a reservation prior to meeting. he un yer-\ IO V VJ-
sity's administration also reserved the right "to close or alter the d~iitr
of use of any Designated Public Forum or any portion" of a forum whe ' e claim that newspapers on the ground are facto banana peels is ludi- Yirst Amendment. The University has the power to declare buildings or spaces on lications will be meetiiig
wanted. If organizers didn't comply with the'icies, they cou s' said Will Creeley, associate director legal and public a ocac-at campus to be public or private, Kobersy said. tribution policy. It's uncl
be kicked off campus anface-dicp -iiary action from university's chancellor But according to lawyers specializing in First Amendment law, the Consti- will be scrapped altogetl
or judiciajff o e.7 What tsu ,iinie_ a u ryes "time, place a " to jus- tution's protection of free speech can't be disregarded as easily as that. way created as a means t
UC fn Diego administrators also justified the policy revisions by calling tify a speec cd or fre- testion of how "I don't think there can be blanket statements made that these buildings. campus. However, sincer
them "reasonable time, place and manner" restrictions. But faced with pres- much regulation f/ieee ' nfringing on free are not public," said Gayle Rosen, a lawyer and board member of the Washt- pointed out, walks a fine
sure from students and FIRE, the university dropped the changes in Febru- speech and expression rights. enaw County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Some buildings "While the policy m
ary. "Time, place and manner restrictions have to be constructed in ways that might be completely private, but certainly there are some that have public debatable presumption.
The University of Michigan has similar methods of regulating public are least restrictive in speech activities as possible," he said. "In this case, forum areas and common use areas and I believe those would be public spaces. development at a univer
speech. However "free" speech and expression may seem in open-air areas LSA's policy isn't narrowly targeted and isn't specific enough to address the I think it's a matter of interpretation." also boasts of'an especi
like the Diag or outside Pierpont Commons, public speech is regulated nearly claims they're purported to address." Rosen said areas of University buildings where public expression - like the of thought and expressio
everywhere on campus. Any group looking to host an event on the Diag or at While discussingthe LSA policy last month, Bob Johnston, director of LSA's distribution of publications and fliers, posting of announcements or public versity Community," Cre
Pierpont Commons must apply for permission through the Office of Student facilities and operations, detailed LSA's plans to consolidate distribution of speaking - often takes place could legally be considered public forum areas, last month. EU

the First Amendment. By arguing that an entire build-
vate, the University appears as if it is trying to evade
old the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First
attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center,
on that provides legal counsel for student journalists,
ons on speech in University buildings transcends the
building is public or private.
private because of restricted access does not negate the
ity to uphold the First Amendment for the people who
ing, Goldstein said.
ng) is either open to the public and anything goes or it's
ghts," he said. "Wherever the government goes, the Bill
nd no institution has the ability to suspend the Bill of
i for Student Publications, MSA and various student pub-
with LSA officials in upcoming weeks to discuss the 's-
ear much of the policy will be changed or if tw-policy
her. John emphasized that the LSA pojcyiwas in no
o monitor or cens ntent of s u.fublications on
e as Johnston may be, LSA's distribution policy, as Creeley
line between content-neutral restriction and censorship.
ight technically pass constitutional muster - a highly
- its implementation would nonetheless be a worrisome
sity that not only is bound by the First Amendment, but
ally strong commitment to preserve and protect freedom
n' in its Fundamental Tenets of Membership in the Uni-
rely said in an e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily

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