UMass Amherst Eliminates Anti-First Amendment Policy After Students Bring Lawsuit

The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced Monday evening that they are reversing their “free speech zone” policy.

According to a statement released by Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization representing the students suing the university, the Board of Trustees changed its policies that heavily restricted students’ right to free speech. This policy forbid students from holding speeches and rallies anywhere other than the west side of the Student Union between noon and 1 p.m. every day. The zone where students were allowed to practice their first amendment rights makes up less than 1% of campus.

The lawsuit was brought in January, but Nicholas Consolini, the president of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter, dismissed the lawsuit after the Board of Trustees reversed the policy.

“This is a great win for the First Amendment,” Consolini told The Daily Wire. “Universities are meant to be the free marketplace of ideas.”

Consolini claimed he brought the lawsuit with his chapter because he didn’t think it was right for a public university to restrict the speech of students.

“Under the policy we challenged, if I wanted to host a speaker or a rally on campus (even a rally for free speech), I could be sanctioned if it wasn’t during the permissible times or in the small speech zone.” Consolini added. “That’s not a free marketplace; it’s first amendment failure.”

Consolini acknowledged he is happy that his university reversed the policy but said, “They should have listened to the letters and the op-eds that were sent urging them to eliminate this policy instead of forcing us to file a lawsuit to finally open our campus to free speech.”

“The only permission slip students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment. UMass-Amherst made the right move by eliminating this unconstitutional limit on student speech,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton in the press release. “We commend YAL and these brave students for taking a stand and causing UMass to remove this speech zone that never should have existed in the first place.”

According to ADF’s statement, the language of the policy wasn’t clear and “didn’t define ‘speech’ or ‘rally,’ instead leaving that decision up to the discretion of university officials and opening the door to unconstitutional discrimination based on a student group’s viewpoint.”

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so vital that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

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