Home Uncategorized Virginia Community College System Expands Free Speech in Outdoor Areas of 23 Campuses
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Virginia Community College System Expands Free Speech in Outdoor Areas of 23 Campuses

On June 3, the Virginia Community College System, which includes 23 campuses, signed a consent order, greatly expanding permission for free speech activity in outdoor areas of those campuses. This is a consequence of a the federal lawsuit Parks v Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System, e.d., 4:14-cv-30.

The old rules, which are no longer in effect, set up “free speech zones” encompassing small parts of the campuses, and required registration four days in advance of any free speech activity. The new rules say, “Colleges may place restrictions on expressive activities occurring indoors, but especially for students and student organizations, the outdoor areas of the campus remain venues for free expression, including speeches, demonstrations, and the distribution of literature.” The new rules also say, “If individuals or organizations who are not members of the college community desire to reserve campus facilities, they must be sponsored by a recognized student organization.” The rules are thus vague about the ability of non-students to petition on campus, but clearly, if the petitioning is being conducted by a party or campaign committee that has a tie to a recognized student organization, it will be permitted.

3 Responses

  1. Andy

    “If individuals or organizations who are not members of the college community desire to reserve campus facilities, they must be sponsored by a recognized student organization.” The rules are thus vague about the ability of non-students to petition on campus, but clearly, if the petitioning is being conducted by a party or campaign committee that has a tie to a recognized student organization, it will be permitted.”

    This is really not good, because not all colleges have groups which are connected to some group that is doing a petition drive, and even when there is a group that may have some connection, it can often be difficult to get a hold of the head of the group, and to then schedule time to be there. Trying to coordinate something with a college campus club end up wasting a lot of time.

    Also, there are some colleges out there who have required students from whatever the club is, to be present at all times while the petition signature gathering is taking place. This is not practical at all, because most students do not have the time to be there all day. They have classes to attend, homework/studying to do, some of them have part time jobs, and most of them have other things to do. I know of cases where colleges have pulled this, and they actually had the campus cops monitoring the petition circulators and the student group, and as soon as the student stepped away, even if it was just to use the restroom, the campus cops came over to the petition circulators and made them stop gathering signatures until a student from the club returned. Needless to say, the petition circulators were unable to gather very many signatures because they could not keep a student from the club with them all day.

    Petition circulators ought to be able to go on to a campus to collect signatures whenever they want, and they should not have to be sponsored by a student group or have to go through some drawn out sign up process.

  2. Technically, the new Virginia community college rules don’t say petitioners must be sponsored by student groups. They just say that sponsorship is required if the outside person is “reserving college facilities”, which I don’t think means petitioning.

  3. Andy

    “Richard Winger

    June 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Technically, the new Virginia community college rules don’t say petitioners must be sponsored by student groups. They just say that sponsorship is required if the outside person is ‘reserving college facilities’, which I don’t think means petitioning.”

    It may not mean that, but some of the colleges will interpret it to mean this, just so they can make it more difficult for people to gather signatures on petitions there.

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