Good news about free speech is good news for everyone. Kudos to Butler University.

Azhar Majeed of the FIRE blog reported.

Butler Removes Free Speech Zone From Demonstrations Policy, Sets Positive Example

As a new academic year gets underway, we at FIRE are optimistic about working with colleges and universities to revise their unconstitutional and illiberal speech codes. While the threat of a federal lawsuit may ultimately be necessary to get some institutions to respect students’ and faculty members’ free speech rights, FIRE is always available and willing to help university administrators who want to reform their policies. We’re thrilled to work with individual students and professors in this effort as well.

That’s why I’m pleased to note that Butler University in Indiana has kicked off the new academic year with a policy change that will benefit students wishing to speak freely on campus. While Butler is a private institution, it promises its students free speech in clear terms, and thus is bound to follow through on that commitment. For example, in its “Computer Use Master Policy,” the university declares:

Butler also cherishes the privacy of personal content and freedom of expression that are at the core of intellectual pursuit and are fundamental to expression of teaching and learning.

Contravening this and other statements in official policy materials, however, Butler formerly maintained a Student Handbook policy on “Campus Demonstrations and Free Speech” stating:

To provide a convenient and visible location for spontaneous student activism and civic engagement activities/programs on campus, Norris Plaza is designated as the “Speaker’s Corner” for individual students and student groups. Typical activities might include: Displaying a sign board which allows students to write their opinions, student speeches or handouts on a current issue, a memorial vigil, etc. These activities do not require registration when they do not involve persons outside the University, are not amplified, or cause a safety hazard.

This policy allowed free speech and expressive activity, including spontaneous expression, in only one area of campus and left students unclear whether they would have the right to engage in such speech elsewhere on campus (at least, without registering their activity ahead of time with the university).