A public university has the right to restrict — or even completely ban — non-students from participating in free speech activities on its campus, according to a Texas federal district court judge.
The late-December ruling came after a group of environmental activists objected to a University of Texas at Austin policy that completely bars outsiders from coming to campus and distributing leaflets and literature.
While the university maintains what it calls a “free speech” zone on campus grounds, the court found that the university’s policy restricting the zone to use by university students, faculty and staff was reasonable.
Citing a recent Supreme Court decision, the court found that “allowing the government to open areas to certain classes of speakers but not others actually increases the amount of speech on University property. If faced with an all or nothing choice, the University might choose to close the [free speech zone] to all speakers rather than allow every member of the public to speak.”
At the same time, however, the judge refused to allow the university to enforce the policy at a university-controlled performing arts building located off campus that was surrounded by public streets and sidewalks. The court noted that