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At some schools, free speech OK here, but not there

The nation's major universities are seen as some of the strongest places for progressive thought and discussion, however, an often unpublicized rule limits exactly where some of these views may be expressed.

In 1970, four unarmed students were shot and killed at Kent State University in Ohio as the state National Guard went to break up a protest being held at the school against the Vietnam War. It marked a devastating moment in the country's history as the students had gathered peacefully to exercise their first amendment rights for free speech. Additionally, the practice of political dissent is one of the most essential parts of maintaining a healthy democracy. However, their deaths were not in vain as this widespread student protest played an instrumental role in the eventual removal of U.S. troops from the political quagmire that was the Vietnam War.

But this practice of limiting student speech is still a pervasive force throughout the country, as many universities have employed a number of tactics to limit what students may say on campus.

Free speech zones
One of the biggest ways they have been able to do so is through the creation of what are known as "free speech zones." Though one would think that a student can presumably choose any location to express their opinions about certain topics, especially in institutions such as universities, many of these places are actually restricted to specific places on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explains that while these names may seem encouraging of this practice, by saying free speech can be enacted in certain locations, universities restrict it everywhere else.

An infographic by FIRE explains that these kinds of locations have a number of similar qualities about them. For one, they require advanced notice by whatever organization or people who would be engaging in free speech. Even after they have "signed up" for their first amendment rights on campus, the time that they may use the space for operates on a strict time frame. Finally, as the name would imply, the places in which such engagements can take place become limited to certain and specific areas.

The problem with these rules is that work counter to some of the most important elements of the first amendment, that is the ability to gather spontaneously to voice dissent about certain issues.

Binghamton engages in protest
These issues have manifested themselves at the Binghamton University. The school's newspaper reports that "chalking" has been banned at the school. This action is common among many universities in which student groups will use chalk to promote themselves around campus. 

To protest the ban, students have made a poster-board "free speech wall" on which students could write various messages with no real requirements one way or another as to what is said.

While in this instance, the chalking ban is not explicitly a free speech zone, it is the banning of speech along certain parts of campus, despite the chalk being a relatively harmless instrument to express one's opinions. Unfortunately, these kinds of bans are not uncommon among universities throughout the country. According to FIRE, roughly 1 in 6 universities employ rules that create free speech zones.

What is worse is that in many of these areas, there are further limitations. Some rules require that there only be one speaker or event at a time, while in others, the amount of students who could conceivably fit in such a zone is terribly small when compared to the size of the student body.

With these kinds of rules still in effect over 40 years after the Kent State shootings, it leads many to wonder what sort of an institution the American university will be in the coming years.

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admin had written 358 articles for Party of We

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