by Matthew Armato
Florida A&M University (FAMU), a historically black college in Tallahassee, released a regulation in 2018 restricting the posting of signs, flyers, and advertisements on designated bulletin boards, and requiring that any such postings be pre-approved by the university.
Posting material is “limited to the Quadrangle Information Center and bulletin boards and will not be displayed, for example, on trees, buildings, or road signs,” the regulation reads.
“Pre-approval for the posting of signs, to include posting for the purpose of solicitation, is required in accordance with Regulations 3.011, Commercial Solicitation and 2.030, Student Activities.”
In September of 2021, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) rated the university with a ‘yellow light’ for this and similar speech-restricting regulations.
According to FIRE’s website, a yellow light signifies a “policy that restricts a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of vague wording, can too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”
The university begins its regulation document stating that “FAMU, as a public university, protects the First Amendment rights of all, including those constitutionally protected views and values contrary to FAMU’s mission and fundamental principles.”
“This Regulation is not intended to inhibit or interfere with academic freedom of expression, and it is understood that faculty exercising their rights under academic freedom will accept responsibility for both the substance and the manner of their messages,” it continues.
A pre-approval process for sign posting appears to conflict with First Amendment jurisprudence.
In 2014, for example, a federal district court ruled that city ordinances requiring that the form, location, and content of signs be pre-approved by the city were unconstitutional.
This accords with longstanding Court precedent holding that ‘prior restraints’ on speech are highly suspect regarding First Amendment Constitutionality.
FAMU is no stranger to controversy regarding freedom of speech and other First Amendment issues.
As reported by Tallahassee Democrat in August 2019, an institution employee alleged that she was removed from her position for calling out the university for rampant drug use amongst certain administrative employees.
Campus Reform reached out to Florida A&M University for a comment, but has not received one. The story will be updated accordingly.
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Matthew Armato is a Texas Campus Corresponent for Campus Reform.
Photo “Lee Hall, Florida A&M University” by Ebyabe. CC BY-SA 4.0.