Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Federal Court Delivers Final Blow to U. of Cincinnati 'Free Speech Zone'

CINCINNATI, August 22, 2012—In a major victory for student rights, a federal district court issued a final ruling today prohibiting the University of Cincinnati (UC) from reinstating its tiny "free speech zone." In today's order, United States District Judge Timothy S. Black issued a permanent injunction against UC's unconstitutional system of speech restriction.
The court's decision comes hard on the heels of yesterday's startling resignation of UC President Gregory H. Williams, who reportedly did not provide any explanation for his sudden decision to quit a mere week before students return to campus.
"Limiting student expression to just 0.1% of campus was bad enough. Threatening to call the police if students were caught gathering signatures for a petition was even worse. The decision to waste taxpayer money defending such unconstitutional censorship was completely indefensible," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "President Williams' surprise decision to step down should be welcomed, as the University of Cincinnati should have never picked this doomed fight with the Bill of Rights."
Per today's ruling, UC may not restrict student speech in the outdoor areas of UC's campus unless the restriction is "narrowly tailored to serve a compelling University interest."
Prior to the lawsuit, UC had required all "demonstrations, pickets, and rallies" to be held in a "Free Speech Area" that comprised just 0.1% of the university's 137-acre West Campus. University policy further required that all expressive activity in the free speech zone be registered with the university a full ten working days in advance, threatening that "[a]nyone violating this policy may be charged with trespassing."
The University of Cincinnati chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and its president, student Christopher Morbitzer, filed suit on February 22, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, challenging UC's policy. The lawsuit was coordinated by Ohio's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).


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