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Thursday, February 09, 2006

VC on Free Speech at USC

A nice post by Eugene on actions by university administrators at USC "shut[ting] down a Gender and Sexuality Week event being held in a designated free-speech zone after receiving several complaints about vulgar language."  Read the comments, too.  USC is a private university, but is at least ostensibly covered by the so-called Leonard Law, a California statute that obliges private universities to abide by First Amendment rules when dealing with student speech.  I rather share Eugene's view about this law and about the USC situation:

I'm not wild about this restriction on private universities' freedom of action; while I think that private universities generally ought not suppress student speech, I think they should have the legal right to do so. But the Leonard Law is the law in California, and it seems to me that USC ought to comply with it. And the Leonard Law quite clearly bars USC from suppressing student speech simply because it's offensive or because includes profanities.

I post this link partly for its own sake and partly because I'm hoping that, at least if we take the same kind of situation with a public university as our example, and if we look to the comments to Eugene's post, we might coax our guest-blogger Dave to talk a little about his terrific draft article, State Actors as First Amendment Speakers (which wanted only a cite to my Grutter piece to be perfect).  I have in mind especially this quote from a commenter to Eugene's post:

...[A]re there a lot of laws on the books like this - that restrict the speech rights of universities by treating them as governments? This strikes me as being completely at odds with the notion that the government has more leeway to restrict speech when it is acting as an employer than when it is acting as a regulator. Is there a way to distinguish the two phenomena that I'm not thinking of?

Posted by Paul Horwitz on February 9, 2006 at 05:10 PM in First Amendment | Permalink

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