Sixteen years ago, Western Illinois University (WIU) eliminated its "free speech zone" and announced that it would recognize students' First Amendment rights on all areas of campus.
But the university has not lived up to this promise. Earlier this year, a campus police officer scolded a student for engaging in political speech "outside the free speech zone."
The student, Dylan Crowl, was recruiting members of Young Americans for Liberty. He had a sign that read "Free 'Pot' Brownies" and invited students to take a brownie from a pot. It was a pun; the brownies did not actually contain marijuana.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
Within minutes, the students were stopped by two members of the WIU Police, who told Crowl that the officers were "going to give [him] an education" on the repercussions of bringing marijuana to campus. At least one of the officers noted his personal disagreement with the policy positions advocated by the students and asked them to remove the word "pot" from the sign. Crowl refused.
The officers further explained that they "came out here because people thought you were handing out actual THC brownies and, anyways, you're outside of the free speech zone right behind the Union."
For that reason, literal speech police shut down the event.
WIU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The students were well within their rights to try to recruit members of their group and to give away harmless brownies. The university should reconfirm this, and make sure its enforcers understand that after nearly two decades, the free speech zone is still dead.