Florida State University, a public college in Tallahassee, Fla., holds a red speech code rating, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s campus free speech rating system.Institutions which hold a "red light speech code rating" are defined as those which have “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech … In other words, the threat to free speech at a red light institution is obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.”Florida State’s speech code policies restrict where and when students can exercise their First Amendment rights and distribute advertisements for upcoming events.
According to an “open platform” policy, there is a small, open platform area for students to use, with university permission, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m, for demonstrations. According to a map, there are only two areas where students can peacefully assemble: an area next to the graveyard on campus and a small area on the southeast corner of the Oglesby Union. There is also only one place where students can distribute materials on campus, the “active distribution” area, which is on the Legacy Walk and on specific “posting kiosks.”
Furthermore, “only FSU entities may pass out flyers or advertising materials on campus” and “materials placed on the outdoor posting boards may not exceed 8.5"X11" in size.”
“The University recognizes the entire campus as open for debate and discussion. The University also recognizes that some debates, discussions, or gatherings may take place in a spontaneous manner and therefore has identified the following areas as highly visible, highly trafficked areas traditionally used and well-suited for unplanned gatherings.”
If speech is spontaneous and unplanned, how can students be sure to speak up in the right areas at the right time?
School policies also state: “The right of all students and individuals to seek knowledge, debate ideas, form opinions and freely express their views is recognized, both as an individual right and an important part of the University culture. This right must be exercised in a manner which will not interfere with the same rights and freedoms of others in their enjoyment of the benefits of the programs offered by this University, or their lawful use of University facilities.”
Mike Avi, Florida State’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter president, told Red Alert Politics that he has been stopped on campus multiple times for trying to distribute pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution.
“These speech codes are so unnecessary,” said Avi. “The university has clearly lost touch with the law; they've clearly lost touch with history and with the human spirit.”
“The university likes to justify their censorship with phrases like 'responsible freedom,'” Avi said.
“It’s ironic and terrifying that the university relegates the right to Free Speech to a literal graveyard on campus,” said YAL Director of Free Speech Alex Staudt. “If we continue to grant bureaucrats like the administrators at FSU the authority to restrict our First Amendment rights then surely our right to free expression will end up in a constitutional graveyard.”
Red Alert Politics did not receive a comment from FSU in time for publication.
Kelsey Carroll is a sophomore at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne studying communications and political science. She serves as a media ambassador and chapter president for Young Americans for Liberty.