If colleges and universities expect to live up to the ideal of being marketplaces of ideas and free exchange,the right to free speech must be protected. In this story, the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports on a victory for free speech involving Christopher Newport University, which had prohibited students from protesting a speech by Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The university has now changed its policy.
As described here on The Torch yesterday, the controversy over the university’s “Demonstration” policy began last week when CNU refused to waive a 10-day notice requirement for student groups wishing to engage in “demonstrations” on campus, despite the fact that Representative Ryan’s September 18 appearance was only publicly announced two days prior, on September 16.
CNU’s decision generated controversy, student outcry, and strongly critical letters from both FIRE and theACLU of Virginia. Our letter pointed out that CNU’s “Demonstration” policy defined student “demonstrations” as “the assembly of a group of persons to express their views on an issue”—a definition so broad as to cover virtually all expression between students on campus. In addition to condemning the punitive and unreasonable 10-day notice requirement, we also criticized the policy’s establishment of a miniscule free speech zone, which limited student “demonstrations” to a single 20′ by 20′ square of CNU’s 260-acre campus.