This past Friday, Oklahoma State University (OSU) settled a lawsuit with Cowboys for Life, a pro-life student organization that alleged the university had unjustly interfered with its ability to engage in expressive activity on campus. According to the lawsuit, brought by Alliance Defending Freedom, OSU used its free speech policies to prevent Cowboys for Life from displaying abortion-related photos and distributing pro-life literature on campus. This is the second settlement victory in the past week for students’ right to free expression: the Yosemite Community College District has also changed its free speech policies following a lawsuit by Modesto Junior College student Robert Van Tuinen, who was prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.
As part of the settlement, OSU agreed to revise its Student Code of Conduct to ensure that OSU administrators would not be able to use university policies to discriminate against speech on the basis of viewpoint. As FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley told the Tulsa World newspaper, the settlement is “a great victory for free speech rights”:
“What they’ve done (in the new policies) is made it explicit that OSU cannot consider the viewpoint of the organization nor can they consider the content of the message the student organization wishes to convey,” Creeley said. “The precedent has been clear for decades that students at public universities enjoy full First Amendment rights.”
Samantha K. Harris is Samantha Harris, Director of Speech Code Research at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. She is a Philadelphia native, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and from Princeton University, where she earned an A.B. magna cum laude in politics.
Used with the permission of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
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