ALLENDALE, Mich. – Grand Valley State University recently settled a lawsuit with a conservative student group who alleged the college restricted student speech to “two small speech zones” on campus.
University officials announced the settlement with Turning Point USA at Grand Valley State University on Wednesday in which the school will cover $11,025 in legal fees and costs for the student lawsuit. GVSU also agreed to craft a new “Grounds and Facility Use Policy” that allows students to exercise their free speech rights anywhere on campus, Mlive reports.
The lawsuit stemmed from an Oct. 17 incident involving two founding members of the conservative student group, Joe Tucker and Tim McKeeby, who attempted to speak with classmates about free speech. Tucker and McKeeby started the conversation by asking students to write messages on a large beach ball they called a “Free Speech Ball” near Cook Carillon Tower, one of two “speech zones” on campus.
The students were later confronted by police when they continued to speak with students outside of the Student Services Building.
School officials reportedly forced the students to halt their activities because they ventured outside of the “speech zones” and did not gain required permission from school officials for the activity, EAGnews reports.
A similar scenario unfolded on Oct. 28, when Turning Point USA members handed out pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution in front of the Student Services building. Administrators told the students to move to a speech zone, and campus police enforced their decree, according to the lawsuit filed with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom.
“It is GVSU’s policy – as expressed in the Code of Student Conduct – that students who engage in expressive activities anywhere on GVSU’s campus outside of the two small speech zones have violated the Code of Student Conduct if a University official asks that the students stop such activity and the students do not comply with the request,” the suit read.
The lawsuit alleged the same standard did not apply to students protesting Donald Trump’s historic election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Student protesters marched around and inside the Student Services building in November without confrontation with school officials, according to the lawsuit.
The new “Grounds and Facility Use Policy,” permits students to gather, express themselves and distribute literature throughout the campus as long as the so-called Expressive Activity meets 16 parameters, including not blocking access to campus buildings, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic and is lawful.
“All students should be able to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their viewpoints with other students,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer wrote in a prepared statement this week.
“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.”
The Expressive Activity policy means students can now distribute literature and hold rallies or demonstrations or conduct other activities between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. anywhere on campus if they meet the special parameters, or until 11 p.m. at the school’s two speech zones – near the Carillion Tower and a Transformational Link sculpture.