UMass Amherst Sued Over ‘Egregious Free Speech Policy’

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Young Americans for Liberty, the same student group that successfully pressured Bunker Hill Community College administrators into allowing the distribution of copies of the United States Constitution, is now setting its sights on what it describes as an “egregious free speech policy” at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

This week YAL filed a federal lawsuit against UMass-Amherst in an effort to overturn a policy they say “restricts all ‘speeches and rallies’ to one hour a day between noon and 1 p.m. on less than one percent of campus.”

The policy in question is listed on the school’s website:

Attorneys with the pro-campus free speech outfit Alliance Defending Freedom claim the the policies “create a chilling effect on speech, deterring students from engaging in their First Amendment rights,” according to a YAL press release.

The lawsuit, filed by YAL and student Nicholas Consolini, charges that the school “does not define ‘speeches and rallies’ and therefore reserves to itself the discretion to determine when expression becomes a ‘speech’ or a ‘rally’ and when it does not.”

Moreover, the lawsuit mentions school policy that reportedly limits the reservation of speaking spaces to recognized groups and not individuals — with the only option left for individuals being the aforementioned noon time slot.

UMass-Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, citing pending litigation, has said the university will not comment on the lawsuit.

“This unreasonable and vague policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of students to free speech and due process,” the lawsuit states.

YAL President Cliff Maloney in a prepared statement said it is “shocking to hear that students can get kicked out of a public taxpayer-funded university for exercising their First Amendment rights when these universities should be championing the Constitution.

“The Constitution does not say the First Amendment only applies during lunch break.”

ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton added that public universities are “hardly the marketplace of ideas that they’re supposed to be when the marketplace is less than one percent of campus and only open for one hour a day — and then only if university officials approve your presence there.

“UMass-Amherst’s speech policy contains provisions similar to those that courts have repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional at other schools. If the university wishes to demonstrate its dedication to the free exchange of ideas, it can do so by fixing its policy so that it’s consistent with the First Amendment.”

Read a copy of the lawsuit:

2018-01-08 YAL v UMass Amherst by Evan on Scribd