Back in March Kutztown University found itself mired in a free expression controversy after school employees had twice washed away chalkings made by the campus Students for Life.
The Kutztown workers claimed they were “just following orders.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom subsequently got involved, informing school officials that their actions were unconstitutional: “[The policy] only permits messages the university agrees with. Nothing could more clearly violate the First Amendment than a policy that silences students based on whether university officials like or don’t like what the students are saying.”
Philly.com reports that yesterday Kutztown U. put out a statement claiming the March incidents were “simply a misunderstanding,” and that school policy had been changed to “better reflect [its] support of free speech.”
“When the university administration became aware of the situation, the group was immediately informed that it had every right to chalk its messages on our campus,” the statement said.
The revision scrapped a section on message content that required messages to be “educational or informative in nature,” and prohibited messages deemed to have “a clear and present potential hazard of interfering with the process of the university.”
In a statement Monday, Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Travis Barham said, “No public university can silence student speech simply because officials don’t like what the students are saying. We commend Kutztown University officials for revising their policy to respect freedom of speech for all students.”
Around the country, “chalking” has long been a cheap, easy way for students to advertise campus events. But in recent years, a number of schools have had flaps over politically charged messages. Last year at Emory University, for example, chalk declarations supporting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump prompted a protest demonstration; the university president issued a bulletin affirming the value of “vigorous debate, speech, and protest” as well as “civility and inclusion.”
Indeed, some of the more outrageous reactions to pro-Trump chalkings include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Academic Senate voting to institute an extra “minority culture” course, and DePaul’s Black Student Union accusing the campus College Republicans of a “hate crime” for scribbling “Make DePaul Great Again.”