Here’s some free advice for university administrators: Don’t mess with litigious students.
A federal judge refused to toss a First Amendment lawsuit against Arkansas State University by a student seeking to form a Turning Point USA chapter at the taxpayer-funded institution.
Last fall a university employee and campus police officer told Ashley Hoggard and a TPUSA employee they were violating campus policy by setting up a table on a walkway outside the student union and encouraging passing students to join the pro-capitalism group. The TPUSA employee was also issued a criminal trespass warning and banned from campus.
The university has a multifaceted speech policy. Free-speech zones can only be used on weekdays and students must request permission to use them from the director of student development and leadership. To use other areas, students must get permission 72 hours ahead from that director or the vice chancellor of student affairs.
Seemingly relevant to Hoggard’s situation, the university requires the director to sign off on requests to distribute “noncommercial written material,” and only in certain designated areas. Judge J. Leon Holmes noted that nothing in the policy requires officials to respond to requests “within a certain time frame or even at all.”
Hoggard and TPUSA are suing to overturn the entire policy on its face and as applied to their activism as unconstitutional.
Judge Holmes ruled that Hoggard has standing to sue the university, even though she was never denied the required permit for her activism, precisely because “she had to seek a permit in the first place.”
We need federal legislation protecting free speech rights on campus, with massive statutory damages for violations.