GVSU settles federal lawsuit, revises free speech rules

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University says it has reached an agreement with a group of students who were suing the university, saying it unfairly restricted free speech on campus.

Attorneys for Turning Point USA filed the federal lawsuit in December after they said two members were told by university officials they couldn’t talk to other students about the First Amendment and have them write messages on a large beach ball because they weren’t standing in a campus Free Speech Zone. The attorneys said campus police and administrators threatened to arrest the local chapter members for trespassing if they didn’t stop their activities.

Turning Point USA attorneys also argued the university has too much control over the content of their free speech because GVSU officials have sole discretion to approve who uses the zones and for what purpose.

In a statement to 24 Hour News 8, GVSU said it has revised its policy to clarify where, when and how people can use campus grounds and facilities to “engage in expressive activity.”

“The University is a marketplace of ideas and supports the use of certain areas for expressive activities provided it does not materially disrupt the purpose of the University, which is to educate students and provide for their student activities,” stated Tom Butcher, vice president and general counsel for Grand Valley State University. “This policy provides greater clarity for students, student organizations and others about use of grounds and facilities.”

The new “Grounds- and Facility-Use Policy” allows students to exercise their First Amendment rights throughout campus as long as they follow a list of rules posted online, which include not violating the rights of others on campus or blocking traffic or access to campus buildings.


GVSU Grounds- and Facility-Use Policy