Free Speech Zones on College Campuses Lauren lindsay, Alison manning, sean upshaw

What are Free Speech Zones?

Free speech zones, also known as First Amendment Zones, are designated areas in public places set aside for political protesting. They are usually in areas that are out of the way, and critics claim this is to keep protests out of the mass media. They became popular on college campuses during the Vietnam War in the '60s and '70s, but many institutions have revised or removed the restrictions due to student action. Free speech zones are also used for things other than just political protests, such as religious groups, preachers, and beggars.

What are the sides of the issue?

Pro:

  • Prevents protests from being disruptive to daily life, and on college campuses, prevents protests from preventing students from getting to class
  • Protects the safety of protesters as well as bystanders
  • Government only restricts the time and place of the protest, not the actual content
  • Prevent rallies from hate groups from being disruptive

Con:

  • Some believe that freedom of speech should not just be restricted to certain areas, but that the entirety of the United States is a Free Speech Zone
  • Critics claim that the government handles the placement of Free Speech Zones in a heavy-handed manner that keeps opposition to elected officials out of sight and out of mind
  • Restricting Free Speech in turn restricts the exchange of ideas that should be occurring on college campuses
  • Offensive and hurtful language is not protected by the 1st Amendment anyway
  • Free Speech Zones also limit religious/prayer groups

Free Speech Zones on College Campuses:

  • According to a 2007 study by the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, of 346 surveyed colleges and universities, 75% placed some form of restriction on freedom of speech
  • The 1968 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines guarantees that non-disruptive speech cannot be restricted on public school campuses, but does not apply to private schools
Examples of what Free Speech Zones look like, as well as their locations at political rallies/debates/speeches.
Our group is opposed to the use of Free Speech Zones on College Campuses because we believe they are too often used by both Republicans and Democrats to silence political opposition and control the dissemination of criticisms. We believe that they are not conductive to the exchange of ideas that should occur on college campuses. Higher education should be a time for students to expand their awareness of the world around them and discover where they stand on many issues. Free speech zones limit the necessary exposure that goes along with discovering different world views.

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