CSU adopts free speech policy for all campuses

Erin Douglas

PUEBLO — Colorado State University’s Board of Governors adopted a system-level free speech resolution Friday to ensure each campus had and adhered to a first amendment policy on campus.

While the Fort Collins campus already has a free speech policy in place, the board wanted to ensure complete legal coverage by adopting a system-wide policy to require all CSU entities—Fort Collins, Pueblo and Global—to ensure policies respect first amendment rights and assures the safety of campus communities.

Ad

“In a political sense, it’s nice to say we’ve long-staked out a position that speech is welcome on our campus,” CSU President Tony Frank said in support of the resolution. “We will stand up to speech we find offensive. But, as a community committed to open ideas, we don’t think it’s our place to decide what should and should not be spoken.”

The resolution comes just a week after Charlie Kirk, a conservative speaker and the founder of Turning Point USA, spoke in the Lory Student Center on the CSU Fort Collins campus, inciting protests outside.

Antifa and Neo-Nazis clash on CSU’s Plaza following the Charlie Kirk presentation in the Lory Student Center. The group was observed fighting and pushed out of campus by police. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

After the event, protesters and Antifa began to fight with a group of white nationalist counter-protesters, who carried flags with white power symbols and made the “Hail Hitler” sign. Police quickly deemed the gathering unlawful and ordered the crowd to disperse. Several witnesses told The Collegian people were hurt in the fights “on both sides.”

“Last Friday provided an opportunity to look at how to manage those events,” said Jason Johnson, the general counsel for the CSU system, during the board meeting Friday. “Both campuses do have policies. This (policy) provides another opportunity to take another look at those and make sure we have all the necessary items.”

Those necessary items include making sure each campus enforces a policy that is content neutral and prioritizes safety. At a minimum, the board’s resolution requires campus policy to address: where and in what venue speech forums might be held, when reservations should be required for events, and what specific guidelines for large events should be. The policy states that minimizing risk and protecting the rights of free expression is essential. 

While board members unanimously adopted the resolution, some offered their concern that while a policy is a good step legally, it does little to resolve the cultural push and pull between the right to free speech and the safety of students.

“I really support these policies, but what I think is more important is to create a culture that supports these policies,” said Margarita Lenk, the faculty board representative for CSU Fort Collins. “I would encourage each of our campuses … to discuss and decide what our culture is.”

Collegian Editor-in-Chief Erin Douglas can be reached at editor@collegian.com or on Twitter @erinmdouglas23.