The University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign holds a yellow speech code rating, according to the campus free speech rating system belonging to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
According to FIRE, “a yellow light institution is one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”
The University of Illinois space reservations policy states that “providing a forum for student expression is vital to the learning environment of the University. As a state institution, the University of Illinois adheres to the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Free speech, free expression, and peaceable assembly are basic to the exchange of ideas and beliefs. Academic progress and freedom flourish when the rights of free expression are assured, particularly at an institution of higher education.”
One paragraph later, however, the public college contradicts itself by informing students of the only two places that they can assemble as groups on campus: the Anniversary Plaza and the Quad Crosswalk.
University of Illinois policy states: “Anniversary Plaza (the formal space between the Illini Union and the Quad) has been designated as a public forum due to its high visibility to the student body, easy access, and its location as being less likely to disrupt or obstruct University activities and functions (when activity occurs there). Anniversary Plaza is approximately 30’x25’ in size.”
The university policy also states, “Due to the size and limits on its use, reservations of Anniversary Plaza for programming purposes are restricted to one organization/event at a time.”
“Students are not allowed to assemble as a group without university permission,” U of I Young Americans for Liberty chapter president Kristian Chehaiber told Red Alert Politics. “It seriously hampers and slows discussion of both serious topics and light-hearted clubs.”
Actions like this, as well as unclear and restrictive policies surrounding expression and assembly, restrict students’ constitutional rights to free speech on campus.
“The more I read the Constitution, the harder it is for me to find the clause that allows the university to relegate First Amendment rights of students at University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign to an area as small as the free speech zone,” said Young Americans for Liberty director of free speech Alex Staudt. “The First Amendment is not that hard of a concept to graph- free speech for all, everywhere.”
Red Alert Politics did not receive a comment from the university 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.