University Revises Expressive Activity Policy

This week, a stipulation of dismissal was with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in Turning Point USA at Grand Valley State University v. The Trustees of Grand Valley State University.
The agreement effectively ends the lawsuit. Turning Point USA was represented by Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys.

Grand Valley State University in Michigan had a policy that limited speech to two small zones that make up less than 0.03 percent of the campus. University officials told members of the Turning Point USA chapter at the school that they couldn’t talk to other students about the First Amendment and have them write messages on a large beach ball dubbed a “free speech ball” because the members weren’t standing in one of the two zones. Campus police and administrators told the students they would be arrested for trespassing if they didn’t cease their expressive activities.

“All students should be able to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their viewpoints with other students. The policy revisions Grand Valley State officials implemented in the wake of our lawsuit allow this to take place, and we commend them for respecting the First Amendment freedoms of their students rather than engage in prolonged litigation,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.
On Oct. 17, club founder Tim McKeeby, member Joe Tucker, and two other individuals were in GVSU’s Cook Carillon Tower speech zone, which they had reserved, talking with other students about their freedoms protected by the First Amendment and giving the students the opportunity to write messages on a large beach ball, which they called the “Free Speech Ball.” Shortly after arriving, Tucker and two others began to walk on sidewalks around campus with the ball and peacefully interact with students. None of the Turning Point USA members were blocking access to buildings or pedestrian traffic.

While the Turning Point USA members were on a large, open walkway in front of the Student Services Building, GVSU administrators and campus security approached them and informed them that they were violating the Speech Zone Policy and were therefore not allowed to conduct expressive activity in this location on campus. The security officers explained to them that they would be arrested for trespassing if they continued to engage in their free speech activities outside of the speech zones, so they ceased their activities.

On Nov. 16, Tucker observed a large crowd of students holding signs and marching around campus outside of the two small speech zones as they protested the recent election of Donald Trump. The student protestors stood directly outside of the Student Services Building and shouted slogans. The protestors even went inside of the Student Services Building for a period of time. Tucker did not observe any GVSU administrator or campus police officer approach the students or order them to stop engaging in their activities as had occurred with the Turning Point USA students.

The lawsuit asked the court to prohibit enforcement of the GVSU Speech Zone Policy and declare it to be a violation of the students’ freedoms protected under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

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