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University that threatened arrest over ‘free speech ball’ forced to expand free speech zones

Grand Valley State used to have two free speech zones that amounted to roughly 0.03 percent of the university grounds, but today that area has been expanded to encompass most of the open campus at the Michigan-based public institution.

That decision was made to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of Turning Point USA, a student group whose members were told last fall that “they couldn’t talk to other students about the First Amendment and have them write messages on a large beach ball dubbed a ‘free speech ball’ because the members weren’t standing in one of the two zones,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the law firm that represented the group.

At the time, “campus police and administrators told the students they would be arrested for trespassing if they didn’t cease their expressive activities.”

MORE: Michigan university threatens to arrest conservative students for ‘free speech ball,’ drawing lawsuit

“All students should be able to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their viewpoints with other students. The policy revisions Grand Valley State officials implemented in the wake of our lawsuit allow this to take place, and we commend them for respecting the First Amendment freedoms of their students rather than engage in prolonged litigation,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Tyson Langhofer stated in a news release announcing the settlement.

According to MLive, the new “Grounds and Facility Use Policy” will allow “students to gather, express themselves and distribute literature throughout the campus as long as the so-called Expressive Activity meets 16 parameters, including not blocking access to campus buildings, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic and is lawful.”

“… Mary Eilleen Lyon, associate vice president of GVSU communications, said the revised policy was written to clarify existing university policies about when, where and how students, student organizations and others not affiliated with the university can use university grounds and facilities when they wish to engage in expressive activity.”

MORE: Grand Valley State professors who voiced conservative views reported to university’s bias response team

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.