Legal Centers Move to Protect Rights of University of Cincinnati Students to Petition for Workplace Freedom on Campus

On February 22, 2012, The 1851 Center filed suit in federal court on behalf of UC students prohibited from gathering signatures and simultaneously discussing the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment with their fellow students.

The legal action, which includes a demand for an immediate injunction against UC’s policies prohibiting non-disruptive political speech, was filed on behalf of the student group Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) and its President Christopher Morbitzer, with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”).

The Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that First Amendment applies to public university property and also protects signature-gathering for petition drives as a form of political speech.  Nevertheless, UC’s policies prohibit political speech by students everywhere other than an 80 by 120 foot patch of grass near the center of campus, and even then, requires students to request permission and wait for up to 14 days prior to engaging their fellow students in discussion of important public policy matters, such as the Workplace Freedom Amendment.

The lawsuit seeks to restore the right of UC students to engage in political speech, and petitioning in particular, beyond the limited confines of the free speech zone, and without first having to ask permission and wait 14 days before doing so.

“UC is an arm of the state that has chased and received state and federal tax dollars since its inception, all in the name of ‘public education,’” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.  “UC mistakenly seeks to advance its mission of public education by shielding its students from actual education on public policy issues that affect all Ohioans.  Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect the education of UC students from their educators; it further protects the right of students to calmly address facts and arguments that UC would rather suppress, and to do so without prior permission.”

March 28, 2012: The Daily Caller: The Top 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech

April 5, 2012: The News Record: Free Speech Under Fire

April 20, 2012: Fox Business Network: College Campuses Limiting Free Speech

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Complaint here.

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Motion for Temporary Restraining Order here.

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment here.

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