Free speech should not have to be ‘approved’ first

Kennedy Nolen, Columnist

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To Eastern Illinois University, and more specifically, the Campus Scheduling Office:

Why must we get fliers or posters approved to be hung up around our public university in public spaces? This is public property, and this rule infringes on our First Amendment rights.

For readers who did not know this, take a look: http://www.eiu.edu/union/posting.php.

Why do our thoughts, opinions, fundraiser information and more go through a system to get approval to be placed on a public bulletin board? This sounds a bit unconstitutional to me, probably because it is.

What flipped the switch for me to write this was a discussion in my Communication Law class. We were discussing places you could freely express speech. A lot of the discussion focused on places around campus, like the Doudna Steps outside Doudna Fine Arts Center.

Whether it is vocal or written speech, the Doudna Steps have been deemed a traditional public forum, as they have been used for the purpose of free speech and are a known location to practice First Amendment rights.

As mentioned by my professor, in 2013 a message reading “MY RAPIST STILL GOES HERE … WILL SOMEONE PLEASE LISTEN TO ME?” was removed after Dan Nadler, the former vice president of student affairs, deemed it to be “trashy.” A link to a story about the incident can be found here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-kacmarek/eastern-illinois-universi_b_2963758.html.

This is also unconstitutional. Nadler and other administrators did not have the right to pick and choose what went on this public forum.

This same instance is happening around the entire university: messages people want to post around campus go through a filter. If their message gets approved, then it can be hung up. What if it is not approved? That is not fair.

You cannot filter content and only choose what you think is OK to be seen. You cannot tell one person their flier or poster is deemed more appropriate than someone else’s just because you do not like what is on it.

As a student who has been at Eastern since January of 2014, who has paid thousands to the university and will repay an ungodly amount back throughout the next 10 or more years, I think I am legally allowed to post whatever I want on a public bulletin board or wall without it needing to be approved.

I also believe anyone can join me and do the same. Those in charge cannot and should not pick and choose what can be seen on campus.

I thought college campuses were places where ideas were meant to be shared. In fact, professors encourage the exchange of thoughts and ideas in the classroom. If this is the case, why do we need our speech on paper approved by someone who may oppose it?

If Brother Jed can come to campus multiple times a year, call me a whore and even tell me “you will never find a husband,” then I think I can hang up my own ideas around campus. It is public space.

Make a change. If you are with me, sign my petition here: https://www.change.org/p/eastern-illinois-university-allow-fliers-to-be-hung-at-eiu-without-administration-approval?recruiter=775304518&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive.

Kennedy Nolen is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].