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Arkansas State sued for banning students from telling peers they have First Amendment rights

‘Unbridled discretion’ to reject or censor student viewpoints

There may be no more euphemistic phrase in higher education than “free speech zone,” yet public colleges seem determined to protect them until every last judge in America has struck them down as unconstitutional.

This restrictive policy at Arkansas State University seems destined for the ash heap after the public university was sued by its Turning Point USA chapter and founding member Ashlyn Hoggard.

The lawsuit, brought on the conservative student group’s behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, targets ASU’s policy for severely restricting “expressive activity” on campus; requiring prior permission from administrators before even using those zones; and giving administrators “unbridled discretion” to restrict content and viewpoint.

About one percent of campus is available for student expression, but they must get permission from Martha Spack, director of student development and leadership. The speech zones are available for use between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anywhere else on campus, students must get permission 72 hours in advance from Spack, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs William Stripling or his designee, according to the suit. The policy “outlines different areas for speech and literature” – in some places, students can hand out literature but not verbally engage passers-by.

The suit says Hoggard and “another individual” set up a table at the edge of a student union building hallway Oct. 11. They told passing students about “their First Amendment rights” and asked them to support the club’s pursuit of official university recognition.

An administrator and campus police officer told them they were violating the “Freedom of Expression Policy” and couldn’t talk to students outside the designated speech zones. They would told they would be punished and potentially arrested if they didn’t stop immediately, according to the suit.

TPUSA staffer Emily Parry identified herself as Hoggard’s companion in a Facebook post, claiming she had been “banned” from campus. She described a Kafkaesque process of trying to get permission to table:

We asked the student life office if we could get a table and they said no because we are not an official club yet.

The College Republicans tried to reserve a space for us.
They said no, we need to know further in advance.

We were told by student life that we could only table outside and if we brought our own table, so I bought one. …

Arkansas State has a free speech zone, that you have to reserve space in advance to table in, AND you have to be a recognized student group to do that. How are we supposed to find the necessary number of members to become a club if we can’t table to recruit?

According to TPUSA’s account, Parry challenged an official who told the duo they needed permission to table on taxpayer-funded public property. That person then called campus police, and an officer was “aggressive and confrontational” toward Parry, issuing her a “persona non grata” citation.

The organization claims Parry recorded video of the encounters, and Parry herself two months ago promised “video to come,” but she has not posted video on her own Facebook page, and TPUSA does not appear to have posted it on its YouTube channel.

 

Students who speak without permission from administrators risk sanctions “ranging from a written warning to suspension to even expulsion from ASU,” according to the suit, which challenges both the ASU System policy and its flagship Jonesboro campus policy.

The lawsuit names as defendants the board of trustees, President Charles Welch, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Stripling and Spack. All are named in their official and individual capacities. The events coordinator for the student union building, Elizabeth Rouse, is not named as a defendant, despite her alleged role with a police officer of telling Hoggard and Parry to leave.

Read the lawsuit, Parry’s account and TPUSA’s account.

MORE: University threatened arrest, now forced to expand free speech zones

IMAGE: Frinkiac.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • TLYG

    Once we were warriors, now Americans are the biggest bunch of pansies on Earth. Higher education in America is a disgrace, period.

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    • Hogarth Kramer

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    • hoosier1234

      I have three Bachelor’s degrees that I used to be proud of. Look what the institutions of “higher learning” have done to my education and money spent for it. All of that effort is now minimized by these Leftists!

    • John_In_Michigan

      This is how democracy dies and totalitarianism wins. This is a public university, funded by public money, and the US Constitution trumps any bureaucratic regulation. Those administrators are not stupid or ignorant, they simply wish to control thought, and they need to brought to heel.

      • Jennifer

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  • TheWanderingJewels

    FFS. time to start cleaning out so called higher education

  • hoosier1234

    “An administrator and campus police officer told them they were violating the “Freedom of Expression Policy” and couldn’t talk to students outside the designated speech zones. ”

    Leftist hypocrisy on the move! No speech except where? Speech zones? Not necessarily a FREE speech zone, though.

    • Dusty Thompson

      All of America is a Free Speech zone. If the ctrl-left doesn’t like it then they can move to Venezuela..

      • CalvinPi

        They can move to Venezuela, but they plan on bringing Venezuela here.

    • John_In_Michigan

      Orwellian.

  • Dusty Thompson

    In a society where liberalism prevails among the academic elite, the more education you get, the more of a hopeless fool you become.

    • Some students remedy this by majoring in practical fields like business or engineering, which minimizes their esposure to the humanities departments dominated by leftists.

  • journeymananalyst

    Why are smart, conservative women so attractive?

    • Dusty Thompson

      Your looking at it 180 degrees off kilter. Liberal womyn are all so ugly. Its WHY they are Liberals, lol…

  • rabidfox2

    Sounds like a slam dunk violation of their civil rights to me. I hope they succeed in their suit. And I hope that the university gets stepped on – hard. What kind of legislature does Arkansas have anyway.

    • Bill Clinton was once the Attorney General of Arkansas . . .

  • rennyangel2

    Good. Sue them to the gates of hell.

  • Mad Max

    If a large number of students get together and demand that the university stop infringing on their 1st Amendment rights and withhold their tuition payments, the university will change their policies instantly.

    Take your economic vote elsewhere (Hillsdale, maybe?).

    There isn’t anything that university administrators fear more (even more than independent thinking) than loss of funding or tuition.

    • rnagel

      The constitution doesn’t say you need a large group to enjoy its privileges. Expressing the opinion that a large group is necessary only feeds their arrogance. To them, you are agreeing with them.

      • Mad Max

        Most college or university administrators don’t care about the 1st Amendment or the feelings of the snowflakes; they just think siding with the snowflakes at this time is the best way to protect their budgets.

        Whomever has the most positive impact on the budget wins.

        Unless you have a lot of money to take the school to court and persist until you prevail, the only alternative is grassroots organizational operations to get enough students to withhold their contributions to the school to adversely affect the budget.

        That will definitely get their attention.