UMaine requires students and groups to contact POLICE before any protest or event

UMaine operates with this policy DESPITE having adopted the Chicago Statement on free speech.

A free speech nonprofit called out the University of Maine for a policy requiring all student organizations and individuals to contact the university police before hosting any event using outdoor space.

The school's College Republicans president speaks out.

The University of Maine requires all student organizations and individuals to contact the university police before hosting any event using outdoor space, such as a protest or even using a small recruitment table.

The free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education highlighted the policy as “speech code of the month,” arguing its potential to chill speech. 

“The entire campus of the University of Maine (except corridors and inside areas and facilities not available on a scheduled basis for reasons of public safety) is open to any form of expression by students, faculty, staff, and their invited guests,” the handbook states, before noting that “individuals and groups wishing to use outdoor areas and facilities shall notify the Chief of the University of Maine Police or their designee at least three days in advance of the nature, the time, and the place of the proposed activity.”

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FIRE noted that since the University of Maine has adopted the Chicago Statement on free speech, the university should revise the policy requiring individuals and student groups to notify the police department before using outdoor spaces.

Azhar Majeed, vice president of policy reform at FIRE, told Campus Reform that the policy stifles student’s rights.

“I think it’s a pretty basic violation when you see that the policy requires students to provide at least three days of notice, for any use of outdoor areas and facilities, you know, there’s seemingly no exception for this, no matter how small your expressive activity is, or how peaceful or how unlikely it is to disrupt campus functions,” Majeed said. “I can’t imagine how a student wouldn’t feel that their rights are being stifled under this policy.”

Majeed noted to Campus Reform that it is very rare to see a university policy that lists the police department as the first point of contact for planning these kinds of events.

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The FIRE vice president said that it is okay for the university to have certain requirements for large-scale events, but states that this policy goes over the top.

“I would call this a one size fits all model where the way the school is seemingly treating any adult expressive activity under this, this restrictive rule rubric,” Majeed told Campus Reform. “And I do think that’s problematic under the First Amendment.”

Charlie Honkonen, president of the UMaine College Republicans, told Campus Reform that speaking from experience, this policy is “very restrictive of speech.”

“Just this fall our club attempted to hold what’s known as a free speech ball on the university mall, and encountered much pushback. We had no knowledge of such a tricky process for gaining permission for events, and as such when we spoke to administration seeking approval, we were sent on a sort of wild goose chase,” Honkonen said. “First told to speak with campus scheduling to set up the event, then told by campus scheduling to speak with administration, then told by administration to speak to student government, and then finally, after we insisted on getting a straight answer, we were allowed to hold the event.”

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He told Campus Reform that the policy is a bad idea and supports a more “streamlined, access[i]ble,” and transparent process for students and student organizations.

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