Debate over SIUE ‘free-speech zone’


Southern Illinois University Edwardsvillle entry sign

The College Republicans at the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) filed a federal lawsuit against the university on Oct. 25, claiming that the school is violating their First Amendment rights.

 The students are suing over the school’s so called “free speech-zone,” a 905 square plot of land designated for demonstrations. 

The free speech zone surrounds the Stratton Quadrangle (the rock) and SIUE permits students to have free speech expression within 20 feet of the rock. Students say that the .02-acre space isn’t large enough for a 1,600-acre campus with 14,000 students.

Students are also required to give a 48-hour notice to the Vice Chancellor for all demonstrations.  

“I think the things happening at SIUE is very interesting. Over the years I never heard of something like that to that extent. The fact that they even have to be censored in this day and age is ridiculous “said UIS senior and business administration major, Monika Wright.  

Tyson Langhofer is a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and is representing SIUE College Republicans throughout the possible 9 months to a year trial period.  

Once the university is served they will have 30 days to file a response. 

“What we hope to gain from the lawsuit is to open up the space or abolish it yet we are hoping to be able to just talk to the university and get them to at least modify it instead of a trial.” Langhofer said. 

Since the announcement of the trial, College Republicans have received bipartisan support across the nation.

At UIS, some students think that despite constitutional protections, people should self-censor to be respectful of others.

“I don’t think free speech should be restricted,” said UIS sophomore and biochemistry major, Alan Huebschen. “However, I think we should be respectful of other people and their cultures.” 

Yet, Langhofer makes it clear that he wants absolute freedom of speech throughout the university.

 “The only permit students need for free speech is the First Amendment,” he said. 

As the University has yet to receive the lawsuit, they aren’t able to comment.