(Oct. 4, 2022) Oxford, OH: Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) sent a letter to Miami University urging it to revise its campus policies to protect freedom of speech. Several of the campus policies governing reservation requests are vague and contradictory, making it difficult for students to understand how to comply. But even more egregiously, the policies do not place clear limits on university officials who are authorized to review, then approve or deny, planned speech activities. This paves the way for administrators to discriminate against certain views on campus.
SLF explains that Miami maintains policies where students must request approval for speech activities weeks in advance. Then, administrators have the sole authority to grant or deny approval. Without anything to curb their discretion, administrators can deny access to students whose views they dislike. But as SLF warns, viewpoint discrimination is unconstitutional. SLF also warns Miami that under state law, it must allow students to engage in expressive activity spontaneously on campus—meaning students cannot be forced to notify the school weeks in advance before speaking in outdoor areas of campus.
SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann explains, “Across its website, Miami’s policies lack clarity—for students and for administrators. Miami must make it clear to students that they can engage in spontaneous expression in outdoor areas of campus at any time. And the University must make it clear to administrators that when students want to reserve other spaces on campus, administrators cannot approve or deny those requests based on viewpoint.”
Director of SLF’s 1A Project Cece O’Leary adds, “When students have to submit speaking requests weeks in advance, and administrators have no guidelines for assessing those requests, the path is clear for officials to shut down speech activities based on viewpoint or content. This is never constitutional, and for this reason, SLF is calling on Miami to revise its policies.”
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