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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A recent Supreme Court ruling has hindered freedom of speech for high school students. Will it have an effect on the UA?

    With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the suspension of a high school senior in Alaska in 2002 for posting a banner reading “”Bong Hits 4 Jesus,”” the message has been delivered: Freedom of speech goes only so far for students.

    But there are different rules that apply to high school students that do not apply to students at colleges and universities, said Diane Newman, UA Mall coordinator, and therefore freedom of speech on this campus should not change.

    “”There are no restrictions”” currently on banners and posters displayed on the Mall, Newman added. “”It’s free speech.””

    Noting the recent graphic displays on the Mall by an anti-abortion group as an example of how far students have gone, Newman said, “”A lot of people didn’t like it, but it happened.””

    As long as a group is in an appropriate space, they can put up whatever they want, she said, as long as it is not doing anything illegal.

    The “”appropriate space”” could mean a space that an organization may reserve on the Mall for their activities, but could also refer to the “”Free Speech Area”” on campus, as well, according to campus policies.

    That area, located from the Alumni Plaza to east of the Krutch Cactus Garden on the Mall,

    “”It’s a hard battle, because who is to say what can and can’t be said.””

    – Tommy Bruce, ASUA President

    may be used, according to UA policy, “”without advance reservations and\or scheduling for free-expression activities, including the passing of petitions, distribution of written information, picketing, and carrying of placards.””

    “”The reason that we have zones, is because we are trying to define a place where people can engage in dialogue and express their opinions about anything, in a place that doesn’t disrupt academia,”” said Peter Likins, UA president from 1997-2006. “”Anyone should be free to express their opinions on campus, and they should be free not only to speak, but to listen.””

    So-called “”free-speech zones”” have been controversial on college campuses all over the United States. In a special report published in the Arizona Daily Wildcat on Sept. 24, 2002, there was a suggestion that perhaps the rest of a campus could be construed as a “”censorship zone.””

    A search of the University of Arizona Police Department Web site for daily activity reports turned up one incident in which a preacher was reported to be outside the free-speech area on Nov. 25, 2003. The police made him leave.

    “”It’s a hard battle, because who is to say what can and can’t be said,”” added Tommy Bruce, president-elect of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. “”But, no one is going to show up in the middle of the union and give a speech, and if that ever happens, we can ask them to move to a free-speech zone.””

    Bruce also said that it is difficult to know whether the ruling on Morse v. Frederick, decided June 25, would have an effect on college students.

    “”There’s a difference between a public high school and a public college or university,”” he said. “”A university is more open and is under different rules and guidelines than a high school, which is how it is designed to be.””

    To the assertion by the Alaska high school principal that the student who put up the banner was at a school-sanctioned function, Bruce said that it is hard to say that a student engaging in free-speech activities is on school time or not.

    “”You never know with these things,”” he said. “”There are a lot of variables into how (the ruling) could trickle down.””

    As for banners placed around the Student Union Memorial Center, there will be likely no effect on the UA derived from the “”Bong Hits 4 Jesus”” ruling, said David Parker, associate director of the Arizona student unions. Echoing Bruce, he said it would be a “”big stretch”” to go from high school to higher education with the court ruling.

    “”(Banners are) not really a free-speech issue,”” he said. This is because banner space is rented, so a university organization has limited room in which to get out its message.

    The message is allowed to be only an announcement for a specific event, he added.

    Preachers and anti-abortionist groups have caused a lot of controversy, Parker said, but “”they’re allowed to get out there.””

    Last November, the Tucson chapter of Refuse and Resist, a political organization, put up posters to protest what it perceived as an unjust requirement to pay $1,600 for two police officers from the UAPD to

    provide security for its Resistance Through the Arts Festival.

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