Free speech on college campuses has garnered a growing amount of press. In a recent Law360 article, we explored student speech codes at public universities and their constitutionality under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Here, we explore free speech issues involving students at private universities.
Although the First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing on free speech rights, it does not prevent private persons or entities from doing so. Thus, while the First Amendment protects free speech at public universities, it generally does not apply to private universities.
Private university students must rely on state laws guaranteeing free speech, if any. Absent such a law, students who believe a private university has impermissibly limited their speech may find recourse in a breach of contract claim — but only if university policies purport to allow free speech, and only if courts in their jurisdiction recognize such a claim.
This article discusses these statutory, constitutional and common law protections.
Excerpted from Law360. To read the full article, please click here (subscription required).