University Of Georgia Relaxes Free Speech Policies

The University of Georgia revised its policies regarding freedom of expression on campus and is no longer limiting demonstrations to two designated areas on the campus for students without a permit from the dean.

According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, previous policy had required students to obtain a permit from the administration 48 hours before assembling and demonstrating outside of assigned “free speech” areas only available on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The designated zones comprised less than one per cent of the university’s main campus in Athens. The revised policy that was released late last month requests that students provide 48 hours notice to reserve an area. “Spontaneous expressive activity” is also allowed if the number of demonstrators remains under ten individuals. If that number grows, the university states that notification should be provided to the dean of students or campus police.

In 2011, Young Americans For Liberty students set up a debt clock at UGA illustrating the rising national debt, and had placed it outside of the free speech zones. UGA officials ordered the students to stop the demonstration because they were violating the university’s free speech policy. Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, filed a lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of YAL arguing that the university’s free speech policies were unconstitutional. In light of UGA’s revised policy, YAL dropped their suit.

Alliance Defending Freedom praised the new policies, stating that “YAL can now speak more freely, host informational tables and displays, and use hand-held signs on campus outside the designated speech zones without fear of punishment from university officials. The university’s previous speech policy greatly restricted YAL’s activities and those of all other students and student groups on campus.”

While UGA has relaxed its free speech policies regarding demonstrations, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Wednesday that hoop skirts have been banned at UGA’s social events. Fraternity and sorority leaders, including those representing UGA chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Alpha fraternities, had reportedly called for the ban following the expulsion of University of Oklahoma SAE members for making racist chants caught on video.