Perspectives on Free-Speech Zones on College Campuses

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Perspectives on Free-Speech Zones on College Campuses

Naturally, many negative connotations come along with the term “free-speech zone.” The wording alone automatically insinuates that free speech should not be allowed everywhere, which is hardly the true intention of the idea. Sometimes the right of free speech is taken advantage of; such as in certain rallies and protests, where disruptive noise, violence, and destruction often occurs. Universities hold a responsibility to their students of providing a reasonably safe and undisruptive environment to learn and excel in. Universities are not creating “free-speech zones” to limit free speech, but rather to maintain a secure atmosphere that is conducive to concentration and higher learning.

Universities should be able to maintain a certain level of safety on campus in whatever way they choose. “The University reserves the right to relocate or cancel the activity due to disruption from excessive noise levels, traffic entanglement, or if the safety of individuals is in question” (West Virginia University’s Student Handbook 91). They are not undermining the right of free speech that we as Americans legally hold, but are creating an appropriate means for demonstrators to voice their opinions without causing unnecessary disruption and chaos in inappropriate places on campus. An issue I do have with this idea of a “free-speech zone” is that there isn’t a clear definition of when or where these zones should be used. Who is to say whether or not the voicing of a certain opinion or idea requires the use of a “free-speech zone”?

If what constitutes the use of a “free-speech zone” was better defined then the use of such “zones” could be more affective and appropriate. As stated by Robert J. Scott, protest zones have been used at many political conventions and other major events. “Protest zones can be reasonable restrictions that allow free-speech rights to be expressed while decreasing safety concerns and...
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