Zoning Out Free Speech at GVSU

By: American Decency Staff



“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

~ George Orwell

We’re raising a generation of young people with fingers in their ears, afraid to hear – or not allowed to hear – an idea that challenges the politically correct orthodoxy. 

Instead of being institutions of learning where young adults learn to think for themselves and debate opposing viewpoints, today’s universities silence speech that doesn’t align with the liberal viewpoint.  “Speech Codes” are in place on many college campuses limiting speech that is deemed “offensive” – and what is considered offensive is typically conservative or Christian thought. 

Students are being taught that they can expect to be protected from viewpoints with which they disagree.  This is blatantly exemplified by the recent trend to transform college campuses into “safe spaces” where students are prohibited from hearing anything that might challenge the politically correct norm. 

Once considered bastions of intellectual freedom, today’s colleges and universities are barriers to free speech.  Literal barriers. 

A disturbing trend in America’s universities is to designate tiny portions of campuses as the only places where students are allowed to engage in free speech.  These areas are referred to as “free speech zones” – an oxymoron if there ever was one – which have the purpose of restricting free speech on every other area of the campus.  As Charles Haynes writes for Religious Freedom Education Project:  “free speech zones” send the message to students that freedom of speech is a privilege doled out by administrators – not a fundamental human right.”

Here are just a couple of countless examples of the censorship of speech taking place on college campuses.

*  Officials from Clemson University forced a man to stop praying with students and leave campus because he had not been given permission to use the “designated free speech area.”

*  A student at Modesto Junior College was prohibited from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution  on September 17 – Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.  The student was told he would have to get permission to use the campus “free speech zone” – a tiny concrete square big enough for just two people – in order to distribute the document that guarantees us the freedom of speech.

*  And last October at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, university officials and campus police told GVSU students, part of a student group called Turning Point USA, that they couldn’t talk about the First Amendment to other students and ask them to write messages on a beach ball they called a “free speech ball’ because the Turning Point students weren’t standing in one of the two designated “free speech zones.”  The two free speech zones at GVSU make up 0.03% of the campus, leaving over 99% of GVSU as a restricted speech zone.  The students, who were on a sidewalk, were told they would be arrested for trespassing if they didn’t stop exercising their freedom of speech.

The example at Grand Valley State University hits especially close to home – the college is roughly 45 miles away from our headquarters at American Decency Association in conservative West Michigan.

The student group who had their freedom of speech unlawfully restricted is fighting the GVSU policy, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal group which defends religious liberty and freedom of speech.

“Public universities, which are supposed to be the ultimate marketplace of ideas, shouldn’t be stifling students on more than 99.97 percent of campus,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “The Turning Point USA students have a constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their viewpoints with other students, and those students have the freedom to share their viewpoints as well, whether verbally or in writing on a beach ball. The university can’t play ‘keep away’ with the First Amendment.”

As ADF reports:  On Oct. 17, club founder Tim McKeeby, member Joe Tucker, and two other individuals were in GVSU’s Cook Carillon Tower speech zone, which they had reserved, talking with other students about their freedoms protected by the First Amendment and giving the students the opportunity to write messages on a large beach ball, which they called the “Free Speech Ball.” Shortly after arriving, Tucker and two others began to walk on sidewalks around campus with the ball and peacefully interact with students. None of the Turning Point USA members were blocking access to buildings or pedestrian traffic.

While the Turning Point USA members were on a large, open walkway in front of the Student Services Building, GVSU administrators and campus security approached them and informed them that they were violating the Speech Zone Policy and were therefore not allowed to conduct expressive activity in this location on campus. The security officers explained to them that they would be arrested for trespassing if they continued to engage in their free speech activities outside of the speech zones, so they ceased their activities.

On Nov. 16, Tucker observed a large crowd of students holding signs and marching around campus outside of the two small speech zones as they protested the recent election of Donald Trump. The student protestors stood directly outside of the Student Services Building and shouted slogans. The protestors even went inside of the Student Services Building for a period of time. Tucker did not observe any GVSU administrator or campus police officer approach the students or order them to stop engaging in their activities as had occurred with the Turning Point USA students.

Once again a university is choosing which speech is “free”.  That’s not freedom, its tyranny. 

Use your freedom of speech, which is being denied to these GVSU students, and urge Grand Valley State University to rescind their speech-stifling, un-American policy.

Click here to send a message to the president of Grand Valley State University.


American Decency invites you for a showing of Trevor Loudon’s  film, “Enemies Within” at 1:00 and 7:00 pm on Friday, January 20 at American Decency, 203 E. Main St, in Fremont. “Enemies Within” zooms in on the best-kept secret of modern politics. Almost no one is aware of the fact that there are enemies within our government seeking to dismantle the Constitution through communism and socialism, undermining freedom and weakening our military.  Trevor Loudon exposes this concern and asks, “If America loses its strength, what will happen to our peace?” 

Join us Friday, January 20 at 1:00 pm or 7:00 pm at American Decency.   For more information call 231-924-4050.

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