Speech First, a local nonprofit, filed a lawsuit against Iowa State University earlier this month over allegations the school is violating students’ free speech rights.
The lawsuit focuses on the university’s chalking policy, which limits chalking only to registered student organizations to promote events open to all students.
"Students and student organizations who violate the chalking policy can face disciplinary sanctions, be forced to pay removal costs, or forfeit their registration status and ability to reserve space on campus," the lawsuit states.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” said Elias Farley, a student at ISU, told Ames Today of the ban. “The president of the university sent out an email about it warning after a couple of incidents – if you even call them incidents – and it was not enforced, at least not very well."
Speech First filed the lawsuit Jan. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.
“Political speech is a core element of the First Amendment,” Speech First President Nicole Neily previously told Ames Today. “There may be political speech the administration doesn’t like but they can’t just suppress speech. When there is political speech on campus, it is an opportunity for further dialogue not to censor or shut it down.”
Farley said he supports chalking on campus.
“The university’s grounds are public property, as long as there’s no city law about not having chalk on public grounds, I think it should be legal and I see it as a form of free speech,” Farley said.
ISU president Wendy Wintersteen, who is named as a defendant in the suit, last week told the Des Moines Register that the university “does not punish individuals for their constitutionally protected rights to expression, nor do we have policies or practices that prohibit expression based on the content of the expression or the viewpoint of the speaker.”
Farley sees no harm done in the freedom of expression as long as its within the law.
“The theory that I got is it’s probably to appease the people that were angry about the chalk there; the policy was made, they looked good, they said they were going to fix it, but, I mean, no one actually wants to spend the resources to have a guy go out and scrub every little bit of chalk,” Farley said.
Speech First has filed similar suits against the University of Michigan and the University of Texas.