If campus officials have moved you from a prominent spot on your campus to a low-traffic area while you were sharing a religious message, your university may have violated your freedom of speech. Many public universities have speech zone policies that restrict the ability of students to speak freely on campus. These policies sometimes provide for a “free speech zone” on campus, but often that “zone” is so small or so far removed from the heart of campus that it is an ineffective area for sharing your message. Other campuses dramatically limit free speech to certain times of the day or week and often give administrators a right to review and approve materials before they are disseminated.
Read the scenario and explanation below to get a firmer grasp of how colleges limit speech:
A community college district in California punished a student for handing out religious flyers during school hours. The district enforced a speech zone policy that requires all students to apply for permission to speak on campus fourteen business days in advance of the planned activity and register any literature with the district forty-eight hours prior to distributing it. The district also restricted student speech to certain "college hours," which were between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
This scenario actually occurred at Yuba College in California and became the “top outrage” on campus for 2008 (according to a national conservative group). The student contacted Alliance Defending Freedom, and the district was not only forced to change its policies; it also paid a substantial amount of legal fees to settle the case.
Many other schools that had adopted or were considering speech zones abandoned them in the face of enhanced public scrutiny, including Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Tufts University, Western Illinois University, Citrus College, and Appalachian State University.