Marquette University to take another look at demonstration policy

Marquette University instituted a “demonstration policy” in August that placed severe restrictions on students/organizations that wanted to hold demonstrations on campus.

After pushback, the university made its student union building open to any demonstration without administrative approval, effectively creating a “free speech zone.” Demonstrations anywhere else on university grounds must be approved by the universi

Marquette University announced earlier in September that it will take another look at a new demonstration policy, which institutes a free speech zone for students looking to hold demonstrations.

The university said that after receiving feedback, it will reexamine an updated version of its protest policy, which was released in August, The Marquette Wire reported.

According to the report, the release said that the school will specifically look at portions of the policy that “were unclear or otherwise open to interpretation.”

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Currently, the demonstration policy requires that any demonstration on university grounds be approved by the university.

Organizers of planned protests must meet with the dean of students after filling out a “Demonstration Proposal,” and the event cannot occur fewer than two days after the meeting.

After push back from Marquette University faculty in a Chronicle open letter, the university attempted to fix the policy by adding a new free speech zone in its Alumni Memorial Union (AMU), where students can have a “peaceful demonstration” without receiving prior approval from administrators, according to The Wire.

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Before the change, the AMU was open to demonstrations, but students would have to go through the same university approval process.

“Yet this policy not only makes the quad an area where free speech is prohibited, it also carves out a small area where ‘free speech’ can happen only subject to bureaucratic approval and without electronic amplification,” wrote the faculty members.

Nicole Ligon, lecturing fellow and clinic supervising attorney at the Duke University First Amendment Clinic, told Campus Reform that, even if they are legally allowed to do so, private universities should be wary of instituting free speech zones. 

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“Free speech zones often do the opposite of promoting free speech by confining political and other important expression to designated areas that frequently sit on the outskirts of campuses,” Ligon said. “While private universities are not directly bound by the First Amendment—which only limits government action—they often view themselves as bastions of free expression.”

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