Black Hills State University (BHSU), located in South Dakota, removed a policy that allowed for officials to remove any “objectionable” person from campus after it was used to silence pro-gun students from speaking on campus, the free speech watchdog Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) reported.
Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) students were surveying students about the second amendment in January when they were told by BHSU Director of Public Safety Phil Pesheck that they could not continue the activity because they had not filled out proper forms, despite students and student organizations being exempt, FIRE reported. Pesheck cited a policy that gives officials the right to “eject any objectionable person or persons from the premises upon the exercise of authority through any agent or police personnel.”
“Black Hills State University’s expressive activity request form previously allowed the university to remove any individual it subjectively determined was ‘objectionable’ from campus,” Sabrina Conza, FIRE program officer, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Providing administrators such broad authority to silence anyone whose views they dislike or consider ‘objectionable’ flies in the face of students’ and faculty’s First Amendment rights at BHSU’s public university campus.”
A few months back, some of our members were threatened by a campus cop with arrest for trespassing because they hadn’t filed the “proper paperwork” to exercise their First Amendment rights.
We don’t believe you need a permission slip to exercise your rights. One of our activists… pic.twitter.com/b32WQSEy26
— Young Americans for Liberty (@YALiberty) April 21, 2023
Pesheck later apologized for the incident after the students informed the university president of what had happened, according to FIRE. The speech watchdog wrote to the university on Jan. 31 to ask they remove the policy from the Request Form for Expressive Activity and alleged that it would be used to silence opinions university officials disagree with.
FIRE reminded BHSU that the “Supreme Court has repeatedly, consistently, and clearly held that government actors may not restrict expression on the basis that others find it offensive,” according to the letter.
“The policy now allows administrators to remove those violating the university’s content- and viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner policies, rather than giving administrators authority to censor disfavored opinions,” Conza told the DCNF.
YAL, BHSU and Pesheck did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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