Free speech on politics at school

Monday, October 15, 2012
Bob Kellogg (

Ohio University is no longer banning political speech in its dorms in the final weeks leading up to November's presidential election.


Robert Shibley explains that when Jillyann Burns, a student, was ordered to remove a political flyer from her dorm room door, she contacted his organization, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

"After a room inspection, they told her that she had to take it down or else face going to a disciplinary hearing, simply for having a poster on her door that criticized both President Obama and Governor Romney," Shibley details.

Burns posted the notice, an invitation for like-minded Bobcats to come to a meeting of the OU College Libertarians, in September. University officials say they had a policy, which Shibley was never able to find, that prohibited display of political posters until within 14 days of an election.

"You would think they would want to foster debate before elections, but unfortunately, we see time and time again on campuses that they're uncomfortable with having students express their political views," the attorney comments. "And that really goes against the marketplace of ideas that a university is supposed to be."

After FIRE sent a complaint letter to OU president Roderick McDavis, Burns quickly received an e-mail from the university asserting her freedom to post political materials.

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