Friday, June 10, 2005

Free Speech? Not at UNCG

Free speech does not exist at UNCG, a public university, at least according to the delusions of whoever sets university policy. While gathering petition signatures there on June 9 to get the Libertarian Party on the ballot in North Carolina, Allison Jaynes, leader of the UNCG College Libertarians, and Paul Elledge, Guilford County LP chair, had an encounter with UNCG staff. They were told that they couldn't stand outside in front of the Elliott University Center because it's not a "free-speech zone." Elledge and Jaynes responded by refusing to leave and saying that wherever they happen to be standing is a free-speech zone, as long as it's on public property, and that they were exercising their rights to free speech and to petition the government as protected by the First Amendment.

The UNCG staff didn't buy it.  They asked Elledge and Jaynes to meet with UNCG staff in a conference so that the staff could explain the "rules" to them. Thinking it would be best to hear them out in order to obtain the relevant information for a possible lawsuit, Elledge and Jaynes agreed to the meeting.

Here are the rules that UNCG thinks it has passed:

There are two free-speech zones on campus. Within these zones, people may speak as they wish and distribute literature, as long as they let UNCG know 48 hours in advance. (Of course, that means that even in that case it's not free speech, for you have to get permission two days in advance.)
You may not gather petition signatures in the free-speech zones, however, because that's soliciting, not speech.

You may gather petition signatures on campus if you belong to a student group and if you reserve a table in one of two spots on campus. Otherwise, it's prohibited.

Jaynes plans to seek the aid of FIRE to negotiate with UNCG to remove the free-speech zones. Should they fail in that endeavor, Jaynes will seek a lawsuit against the university.

In the meantime, Jaynes and Elledge plan to continue petitioning wherever they please on the UNCG campus.

5:26:23 PM    comment []

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