NAU: College Administrators Stifle 9/11 Never Forget Project and Limit Free Speech

Daniel Doherty

9/13/2011 4:19:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

In my post last Friday, I wrote about how liberal colleges and universities across the nation were attempting to thwart students from commemorating the ten year anniversary of 9/11. At Northern Arizona University (NAU) this past weekend, participants from Young America’s Foundation 9/11: Never Forget Project tussled with angry administrators for innocently and peacefully passing out 9/11 buttons and American flags.

When the Office of Student Life moved to shut down their table and prevent them from memorializing the lives lost that terrible day – purportedly because they were not properly organized in a “free speech zone,” – the university administration justified their actions by invoking their right to do so under the U.S. Constitution.

Here is the transcribed conversation:


Student: Do you know the Constitution?

Administrator: Yes I do.

Student: You do? What does the First Amendment state?

Administrator: [It states] free speech [is permitted] in a designated time, place and manner.


After ignoring this grossly distorted interpretation of the First Amendment -- I took some time to look up how the Supreme Court defines free speech on public university campuses – as well as to see when it is permissible for administrators to revoke that right:


In conclusion, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the crucial question [for application of time, place and manner restrictions] is whether the manner of expression is basically incompatible with the normal activity of a particular place at a particular time.@ Grayned v. Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 116-18, 92 S.Ct. 2294 (1972). To that end, time, place and manner restrictions may be placed on expressive activities that Amaterially and substantially disrupt the operation or function of a university or interfere with the rights of its students to obtain an education.

Time, place and manner restrictions permit the University to avoid disruptions and protect the rights of speakers and those who want to listen. Examples of proper restrictions include those required to prevent disruptive activity, obstruction of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, excessive noise levels or noise that interferes with classroom‚ business or other university activities, interference with the normal functions and processes of the university or the rights of others to effectively use university facilities and property, blocking doorways, or an imminent threat of physical violence or destruction of property. On most university campuses, the responsibility for making time, place and manner determinations and decisions rests with the Dean of Students or similar representative.


Clearly, after watching the video below, these students were not in violation of the law. They did not disrupt students, obstruct traffic, or interfere with the rights of others. Nevertheless, four different school administrators tried to silence them by forcing them into “designated spaces” away from the student body. Despite their numerous attempts, however, I was happy to see several individuals accept the memorabilia and participate in the Foundation’s Never Forget Project.

In all honesty, I can’t understand why the administration was so vehemently opposed to their peaceful assembly. These college students, after all, were simply trying to commemorate an event that tragically and irrevocably changed the nation. In my view, their obvious misuse of the “Time, Place and, Manner” restriction was a deliberate and egregious attempt to undermine their heartfelt message.

While I’d suggest watching the entire video before drawing your own conclusions, I personally find the whole situation profoundly distasteful.