Is the freedom to disrupt others’ speech a matter of free speech?
Campus progressives and their allies in the media and ACLU have worked themselves into a lather over a perfectly reasonable new policy of Ohio University aimed at guaranteeing the rights of both protestors and those who are at the university to learn or accomplish work tasks. The essence of the new policy is that protestors have the right to use any outdoor space for their activities, unless that space already has been reserved and is in use for some university activity.
The unscheduled use of outdoor spaces for the purpose of engaging in constitutionally protected speech shall be permitted provided the space has not already been reserved by another user and that the unscheduled use does not result in disruption as defined below.
And even if the outdoor space is in use, non-disruptive speech is still permitted.
The rights of individuals authorized to attend an event in an outdoor space to engage in constitutionally protected speech shall not be limited, provided they do so in a manner that does not materially disrupt the event or prevent others from expressing their views. Attendance at an event is authorized if the event is open to the public or, in the case of limited admission events, the individual has a ticket or invitation or satisfies other appropriate admission criteria.
One of Ohio University's lovely outdoor spaces
Inside university buildings – a place of business where students pay for the privilege of attending classes, and the taxpayers of Ohio pay for demonstrators and support staff to carry out their professional activities – demonstrations are permitted, if a reservation in advance is made, and if the activities will not disrupt other business.
In other words, the freedom of expression is only limited by the freedom of others to go about their business, carrying out the activities for which they are being paid, or for which they are paying.
Seems pretty reasonable to me, but not to the progs.
Check out this headline from WOSU, the radio broadcasting arm of OU’s rival Ohio State University:
“Ohio University Clamps Down On Campus Protests. Alumni Aren't Happy”
One might think that an alumni poll was conducted to determine what the alumni think. But the article only states:
“We feel, that to have a top-notch university, you need to have more free speech, not less,” says Andrea Tortora, an Ohio University graduate.
Tortora is among a group of former writers for the student newspaper The Post who are asking the university to rescind the new policy.
“The university, as a whole, has a very long tradition going back to the 1960s and later of honoring freedom of expression and students’ rights to share their opinions,” Tortora says.
Tortora says Ohio University’s renowned journalism program has long made it a mission to uphold the First Amendment, which she feels will be tarnished by the new protest limitations.
What about the freedom of speech of students and faculty whose classes could be disrupted? No concern, apparently. As for the ACLU (which has announced it no longer will defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis):
Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union have also expressed reservations about the new OU policy. They say university officials have a right to regulate the learning environment, but this policy could lead to unequal treatment and school officials breaking up events they see as critical of the university.
If that happens, redress certainly would be available. Any regulation is subject to abuse, after all.
The OU regulations balance the rights of protestors and those at school for its official purpose of learning, teaching, and researching. This dispute bears watching. The Left is twisting itself into pretzels when it comes to the Constitution.