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Re-designating of free-speech area being considered to help scheduling conflicts

By CIDNIE SYDNEY-BREWINGTON | Staff Writer

“[President Hall] recently asked the University Policy Committee to consider whether the plaza area was the best location for speech activities or if other campus locations should be designated for that purpose,” said Richard Jackson, vice president of Legal Affairs and Strategic Planning.

At the Wednesday, Jan. 19, SGA meeting, Jackson and Mitch Robinson, vice president of Finance and Administration, officially proposed the change.

“Currently, the free speech zone is the MUC Plaza. However, they would like to move it to an area that can’t be reserved by University Facilities,” reads the written account of the proposal.

“The reason for this is because the MUC Plaza area is constantly being used for organization fairs, events, etc. They would like to move it to another high-traffic and visible area that students can utilize without interference.”

According to Robinson, “the University [Policy] Committee met Wednesday, Jan. 26, and recommended the primary free speech area should be designated as the concrete area around the The Sentinel sculpture located on the northeast corner of the MUC. An alternate free speech site is recommended as the Library Bowl, which is between the MUC and the library.

“Re-designating the free speech area will help eliminate scheduling conflicts that exist with the current site.

“This is the issue. It isn’t really a free speech zone if some on-campus organization can reserve it and prevent you from expressing your free speech. We’ve seen organizations do this in the past to prevent certain groups from coming,” said SGA President Kenny Kennedy.

Free speech zones have been controversial since they first appeared on colleges campuses during the Vietnam era.

According to Jackson, “There is no requirement to have a free speech zone, but many higher education universities have established them to encourage the exchange of ideas.”

APSU’s free speech zone has certain restrictions. Individual groups must register to use it, and students and organizations can use it only three times per semester, though ‘non-university personnel’ can only use it one time per semester. Students and organizations are allotted 90 minutes per use.

Some may consider these regulations as censorship, but the “courts have generally upheld the requirement to register … [and] there is no definitive U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether restrictions on the number of uses during a given period … or length of time per use may or may not be imposed on universities,” Jackson said.

A full listing of the rules and regulations for use of the free speech zone are available in the 2010-2011 Student Handbook and Calendar, pages 224-225. TAS

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