Do you really have free speech if you can only engage in it for one hour a day in a limited space?
This is one of those debates that can really show you where people stand on the idea of individual liberty, but it’s also at the heart of a lawsuit against UMass-Amherst.
The lawsuit, filed by the college’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter, claims the school restricts free speech activities to a small portion of the campus from noon to 1:00 pm. In other words, the typical lunchtime. Cliff Maloney, executive president of Young Americans for Liberty, told The College Fix: “We are not looking for an unfair advantage here, but simply a level playing field.” He added: “Restricting free speech to an hour during the lunch break and to one side of a building is not what the First Amendment is about.”
UMass Amherst economics major Nick Consolini is named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“Consolini’s only option to deliver a speech or to rally students in his capacity as an individual student is to speak or rally only between noon and 1 p.m. in front of the Student Union Building because he is unable to reserve any other meeting space as an individual,” contends the lawsuit. It also notes that the campus is plenty large enough for students to engage in free speech activities without interrupting normal college operations.
What’s happening here isn’t anything unusual. Schools have developed quite a history recently of trying to quell students’ free speech rights, and of enforcing the rules unevenly.
As a public university, UMass/Amherst doesn’t get to enjoy protections for private entities. By virtue of taking taxpayer money, they give up the ability to act like a private entity in most regards. That includes exercising the First Amendment.
Students who hold jobs contribute both tuition and tax money to the school. Most of their parents do as well. They’re paying for that school in multiple ways, and are then told they can only engage in free speech in a narrow manner that seems purposefully designed to limit any chance of said free speech being heard.
It’s well past time that colleges recognize they’re bound by the United States Constitution, just like everyone else.