Policing the Heckler's Veto: Toward a Heightened Duty of Speech Protection of College Campuses

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Authors
Chauvin, Noah C.
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2018
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ABSTRACT|In the wake of high-profile incidents on college campuses across the nation over the past several years, free speech protections on campus have become a hot-button issue. Colleges have been forced to balance the ideals of First Amendment free speech protections with the need to ensure a learning environment that is welcoming to all students. For the first time, calls to suppress speech are coming on behalf of (and frequently from) students who traditionally have been underrepresented on college campuses.|Students are not merely calling for change, they are also taking action. Over the past several years, there has been a drastic increase in the use of the “heckler’s veto”–the use of violence or disruption to prevent a speaker from delivering her message. Students have protested, shouted down speakers, and in some instances even rioted to prevent controversial figures from speaking on their campus. Colleges and universities have incurred enormous costs in an effort to combat these protests and protect free speech.|Colleges cannot arbitrarily shut out speakers, and must work to deter and prevent a heckler’s veto. However, at some point, security costs become too high, and colleges must shut down controversial events to ensure safety. What remains unclear is precisely where that point lies. This Article details a five-part standard for colleges and universities to use to determine when they can appropriately prevent someone from speaking to promote safety, and when they must find a way to ensure safety without effectuating the heckler’s veto.
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Creighton University School of Law
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