Monday, November 9, 2009

Empty Holster Protests and Campus Speech Zones

As reported by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), there is an ongoing controversy at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, involving an attempt by students to mount a gun-rights protest on campus.  Administrators have allegedly refused to permit the students to wear empty holsters as a symbolic protest against laws and policies that prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on campus.  They have also allegedly limited any protest to the school's tiny "free-speech zone."

As I note in Chapter 8 of the book, which discusses "Places of Higher Learning," colleges and universities continue to resport to expressive zoning despite the fact that FIRE and other advocacy groups have successfully challenged this tactic several times in campuses across the country.  This episode also demonstrates that students associated with conservative causes are as or perhaps more likely to engage in public protest and to challenge expressive limitations on campuses than their liberal classmates.  The rise of conservative and libertarian protests on campus can likely be traced to some extent to concerns about "political correctness," including the enforcement of speech codes and controversies regarding academic freedom on campus.

Update:  A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order that will permit students at TCC to wear empty holsters on campus, except in hallways and classrooms.

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