University attempts to regulate free speech wall, gets sued

  • Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, attempted to regulate a free speech wall event held by a Young Americans for Liberty group.
  • The group is now suing the school with help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Students at Utah's Dixie State University have filed a lawsuit against the university for attempting to regulate their free speech.

The Young Americans for Liberty organization at Dixie State attempted to organize a free speech wall with the use of promotional flyers. The flyers characterized presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, along with Communist revolutionary leader Che Guevara, in a satirical manner that the university did not approve of. According to the school, policy prohibits students from mocking individuals and all promotional flyers must be "in good taste."

[W]hen the event took place, university police allegedly spent time at the free speech wall looking for the presence of “hate speech.”   

Not only was the YAL organization allegedly told it could not utilize its flyers, it was apparently told by Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Jordon Sharp that its free speech wall had to take place in a designated "free speech zone," an area that constitutes roughly 0.1% of Dixie State’s campus.

This area, which is not centrally located on campus, was apparently not specified in any of the university's published policies and was unknown to the YAL organization, students, and even university faculty, such as the Scheduling Coordinator, who is responsible for scheduling and organizing campus events.

Not only did YAL members encounter difficulty expressing their views and promoting an educational activity, but when the event took place, university police allegedly spent time at the free speech wall looking for the presence of “hate speech.”

The students filing the lawsuit have enlisted the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with prominent First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere.

Dixie State encountered troubles with free speech censorship in 2013 when it refused to recognize a student group that used the Greek alphabet in its name because the University feared it would promote an image of the university as a "party school." FIRE named Dixie State one of the top ten worst campuses for free speech that same year.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @taylorgrenawalt

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