Letter to the editor: Free speech on campus not so free

To the Editors:

Clarion University promises students they “will have the room to grow, discover and thrive” during their time on campus. But like one in six colleges nationwide, Clarion restricts student expression to “free speech zones.” These zones limit the areas and times in which students can express themselves. Adding insult to injury, colleges like Clarion often require students to seek permission and fill out forms days before students can express themselves freely.

If Clarion students desire “room to grow, discover and thrive” anywhere outside the space inside the Gemmell Performance Area, or areas 50 feet away from academic buildings or residence halls, they’re out of luck. Worse still, Clarion isn’t content with just limiting the areas student can express themselves; students must also get permission from the events & scheduling office in advance before they can even use Clarion’s free speech zones.

Clarion’s mission statement is correct: Students deserve a place where they can grow and discover. (Many take on a lot of debt for that opportunity.) But by severely limiting student expression, Clarion hurts students’ abilities to learn from others.

Use your First Amendment rights to protest your school’s unconstitutional free speech zone and make Clarion even better. As a student working for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-partisan, non-profit organization that defends student rights, I urge all Clarion students who don’t like the free speech zone to contact us. We’ll be happy to discuss ways you can bring free speech to Clarion.

Sarah McLaughlin

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

sarah@thefire.org