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Historically, public colleges and universities have been thought of as places where free speech and free inquiry abound. Institutional policy makers, however, have occasionally placed restrictions on student expression. When students have challenged these restrictions, courts have used public forum analysis to delineate the balance of student rights to free speech and the institution's right to self-governance. Using legal-historical research methods, this study traced the development of the public forum doctrine in the case law and its application to students in higher education. Employing Edward H. Levi's three-stage evolutionary theory on the development of a legal concept, the study concluded that the public forum doctrine had completed the first two stages, which involved creation, development and classification. The doctrine, however, has not lost its viability, which is Levi's final stage. Other conclusions of the study: 1) Institutions have broad authority to make regulations that are consistent with their missions. 2) Despite this authority, policy makers are constrained by First Amendment principles. 3) Forum analysis enables administrators to designate areas for student speech. 4) The protection of student speech on campus is influenced by the context of the speech. 5) Administrators may exercise the greatest control over campus areas characterized as closed fora. 6) Although, the distinction between designated and limited fora remains ambiguous, courts have begun to suggest differences. 7) Content-based and viewpoint-based regulations on public forum speech are disfavored. 8) Regulations on public forum speech must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. 9) The judicial characterization of student publications as limited fora is undergoing legal challenge. 10) The conflict between the students' right to free expression and the public institutions' right to govern is dynamic and ongoing.
College Media, University Administration, Administration, Freedom of Expression, Colleges and Universities, Freedom of the Press, Free Speech Zones, Free Speech, College Press, First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Freedom of Speech, U.S. Supreme Court
Date of Defense
Date of Defense: March 16, 2007.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
Alexander, L. B. (2007). Public Forum Doctrine in Higher Education: Student Rights and Institutional Prerogatives. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-0165