No Free Speech Zones at Mason
The Johnson Center’s North plaza (around the clock tower ) is often called a Free Speech Zone. Not so, this myth is inaccurate and mis-leading to many members of our community. The North Plaza is an area where individuals and organized groups most often choose to engage. Individuals affiliated and visiting campus engage in scheduled (or often non-scheduled) events. Some involving contested issues, protest and counter protest demonstrating individuals’ ability to access, communicate with, and educate members of the university community.
During contested events the administration is equally obligated to secure the learning environment for those who agree or dis-agree with a specific issue. It is particularly important that both community members and visitors understand State of Virginia’s House Bill 258 which address the establishment of Free Speech Zones and individuals’ rights, as well as, conditions under which speech can be restricted.
In summary: Establishing free speech zones on campus is unconstitutional and violates the State of Virginia’s House Bill 258: Higher Educational Institutions; restrictions on student speech, limitations cited below:
” Restrictions on student speech at institutions of higher education; limitations. Prohibits public institutions of higher education from imposing restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student speech that occurs in the outdoor areas of the institution’s campus and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution unless the restrictions (i) are reasonable, (ii) are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, (iii) are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and (iv) leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.”
See additional policies related to Free Speech at Mason.
Mason as a public institution serve affiliated individuals and the general public. The Office of Events Management can provide additional information about event planning, space use, and managing conflict that occur during planned events.