There has been much debate lately over the issue of freedom of speech and expression on college campuses. University and colleges campuses have historically prided themselves on being institutions of free thought, where open-minded students and faculty could freely exchange ideas without persecution.
Now, whether or not this has ever really been the case is debatable, but it is getting harder and harder to maintain this claim, as numerous examples of campuses administrations suppressing free speech have recently come to light.
On many campuses, students wishing to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech must first obtain permits from their university in order to do so. North Carolina State University, for example, is one of these campuses and its administration is currently taking a lot of heat for enacting policies that are believed to create barriers to free expression on campus.
On Saturday, a judge granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits North Carolina State University from requiring students to seek permission from the administration before they are permitted to speak freely or distribute literature on campus. The judge’s order comes in response to a lawsuit between Grace Christian Life, a non-denominational church group that meets on campus, and the campus administration.
The church group views the university’s policy requiring students to obtain permission before exercising their right to free speech as a clear violation of the First Amendment, which promises all citizens the right to freely speak and express themselves on public property.
Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III, the judge responsible for granting the motion, agreed with Grace Christian Life, and grilled the state attorneys, questioning the legality behind the school’s free speech policies. Officials of the university said that the policy was enacted in 1933 and was adopted as a means of ensuring the safety of its students.
When Dever asked the state lawyers for specific examples of instances when the policy has actually been used to protect the safety of students, they were unable to provide any examples. Judge Dever also wrote that the school was not allowed to prohibit any form of non-commercial solicitation based solely on its content, viewpoint of expression, or possible reaction to the expression.
Though this motion is a temporary action that will be enforced only while the suit makes its way through the court system, it is hopeful that this preliminary injunction will soon become the norm on not only North Carolina State University, but on all college campuses in the country.