U. of Hawaii at Hilo Suspends Restrictive ‘Free Speech Zone’ While Lawsuit Proceeds
News Release from FIRE, May 16, 2014
HILO, Hawaii, May 16, 2014—Facing a federal lawsuit from a student who was ordered to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus, the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo) has announced that it will immediately take interim steps to stop requiring students to limit their spontaneous political expression to a tiny “free speech zone.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) coordinated last month’s lawsuit against the university for this and other First Amendment violations on behalf of students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone.
“FIRE welcomes this development as a sign that the University of Hawaii at Hilo understands the importance of free expression and is committed to aligning its policies with the First Amendment,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Students and faculty members across the University of Hawaii System deserve permanent protection for their right to engage in free expression in open areas of campus and without advance permission.”
The suspension of policy comes after cordial and constructive discussions between attorneys for the students and the university. UH Hilo has announced that it will now implement the challenged rules “in a manner to permit student speech and assembly without first having to apply for or obtain permission from the University in all areas generally available to students and the community, defined as open areas, sidewalks, streets, or other similar common areas.” It will also “permit students to approach others on campus and to distribute non-commercial literature at UH Hilo in all areas generally available to students and the community.”
Last month, UH Hilo students Burch and Vizzone made the restriction of free speech on their campus national news with their First Amendment lawsuit. Burch was stopped from handing out copies of the Constitution in an area by the student center. A college administrator later told Burch and her co-plaintiff, Vizzone, that if they wanted to protest issues such as NSA surveillance, they should do so in a tiny free speech zone that is subject to flooding, saying, “This isn’t really the 60’s anymore. People can’t really protest like that anymore, times have really changed since the movement back then.” Burch and Vizzone are represented by Robert Corn-Revere, Ronald London, and Lisa Zycherman of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
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UH Hilo adopts interim policy on speech and assembly
News Release from University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo May 15, 2014
The University of Hawai'i at Hilo is implementing an interim policy on speech and assembly while the university explores permanent changes to the policy.
“UH Hilo is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas. The interim policy will ensure our students have that right while we continue our review of campus policies,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney.
The review of policies follows a lawsuit filed in federal court by two students, against the University of Hawai'i and four individuals. The students allege various federal claims, mostly relating to First Amendment issues.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, the university and the students, through their respective attorneys, have engaged in productive discussions to resolve the lawsuit, including exploring possible permanent changes to university policy and practices regarding speech and assembly on campus. The university hopes to resolve the lawsuit with the students.
UH Hilo affirms the rights of its students to engage in free speech and other expressive activity guaranteed by the First Amendment. In this spirit, UH Hilo has adopted the interim policy, effective May 15, 2014:
1) UH-Hilo will implement Section 20-13-6 of the Administrative Rules for the University of Hawai‘i and Sections 10 and 11 of the Facilities Use Practice and Procedures, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (July 1995) in a manner to permit student speech and assembly without first having to apply for or obtain permission from the University in all areas generally available to students and the community, defined as open areas, sidewalks, streets, or other similar common areas.
2) UH-Hilo will implement the solicitation policy as set forth in Section 20-13-7 of the Administrative Rules for the University of Hawai‘i and in Section 13 of the Facilities Use Practice and Procedures, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (July 1995) in a manner to permit students to approach others on campus and to distribute non-commercial literature at UH-Hilo in all areas generally available to students and the community.
3) Notwithstanding the above, persons speaking, assembling, and/or distributing material shall not impede the progress of passersby.
4) Notwithstanding the above, no event, speech, demonstration, or other expressive activity on campus shall interfere with or disrupt the educational process or other scheduled activities of the campus or its facilities. This includes the use of any means of amplification that creates a noise or diversion that substantially disrupts the orderly conduct of the campus or classes taking place at that time.
Lawsuit: Students Ordered to Stop Handing Out US Constitution at UH Hilo
Saiki to UH Hilo Chancellor: Uphold Students’ First Amendment Rights