Students criticize speech policies

The board of regents at New Mexico State University passed a newspeech policy in October following a lawsuit filed against the universityby a graduate student who was arrested for refusing to hand over leafletsto a campus police officer.

Sean Rudolph was distributing fliers protesting the university’s free-speechpolicies when he was arrested for obstructing an officer on Sept. 18. Theofficer approached Rudolph and asked him to relinquish his leaflets becausehe was distributing them outside of the area designated for distributinginformation. In addition, Rudolph did not obtain prior approval to distributethe fliers.

Rudolph dropped his lawsuit after the university agreed to drop thecriminal charges against him and change the free-speech policies on campus.

Administrators enacted a temporary policy to govern campus speech untila task force undertakes a comprehensive review of the schoolís free-speechpolicies and develops new guidelines. The temporary policy imposes no restrictionson student speech or the distribution of materials.

“We still have some concerns about some things but we have agreed toabide by the temporary policy in the meantime, while the task force makesits recommendations,” said Mike Lilley, Rudolphís attorney.

Lilley said the lawsuit could be reinstated if the new policy in Marchdoes not satisfy Rudolph.

“We will dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice with respect to issuesof free speech, injunctive and declaratory relief, and if we don’t likewhat they passed, we will reactivate the lawsuit,” Lilley said.

A group of about 20 students at the University of Kentucky gatheredOct. 3 to protest the free-speech zones on their campus, which the studentssay is in a low-traffic area, making it hard for people who want to expressthoughts and ideas to communicate with others.

The University of Kentucky Campus Progressive Coalition, an organizationthat represents several student activist groups such as the Leftist StudentUnion, gathered to protest the zone and to kick off a Free Speech Campaignfor the organization.

Victor Hazard, dean of students, claims that the free-speech zone thegroup was protesting is actually in a high-traffic area, adjacent to thestudent center.

Hazard also said the student protesters asked him about leafleting,and he said he told them the university had never had such a problem. Studentsare allowed to hand out whatever they want, he said, as long as they donot stop people from being able to walk freely.

“Students are able to move freely about the campus and communicate thethings they want to communicate in a fair and orderly fashion,” Hazardsaid. “We do have certain guidelines for assemblies and demonstrations,but the free speech zones are open 24 hours a day.”

Hazard said he has total discretion over the definition of disruption.

“If there is a complaining party, be it on the free-speech area or anyother area, I would have to check that situation out and determine whetherit was disruptive or not,” Hazard said.

A student at the University of Mississippi, in Oxford, was foundguilty in October for failure to obey a police officer when he was protestingthe campus newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, outside the free-speecharea designated by the school.

Arthur Baker, a student member of the Society of Cogers, was arrestedAug. 28 when he refused an order by the university police to move to thefree-speech area in front of Fulton Chapel. Baker said he was also protestingthe concept of the free-speech zone itself, which he saw as an infringementto his First Amendment rights.

“I’m out there standing with a sign talking about free speech and liberalism,and I was busted for disorderly conduct within 15 minutes,” Baker said.

Less than a week after Baker was arrested, the university changed itsfree-speech policy, adding two more high-traffic speech areas and removingthe policy requiring a person to register with the dean of students threedays ahead of time.

According to a Sept. 25 Associated Press article, Judy Trott, dean ofstudents, said it was a coincidence that the policy changed around thetime of Baker’s arrest. She said university officials had been discussingthe issue for several months.

Both Sparky Reardon, the associate dean of students, and Mike White,dean of students, said the university reserves the right to determine thetime, location and the manner of the speaker.

“We are an educational institution,” Reardon said. “We have to preserveorder.”