Frequently Asked Questions
How do First Amendment rights apply to events at public universities compared to events at private ones?
The Constitution, and its protection of rights, applies only to the government. Public universities are directly bound by the First Amendment to uphold the right to free speech. Because private schools are not state actors, those schools’ administrations may generally impose whatever restrictions they wish on speech or on visitors to campus. Additional laws may also guide their actions, however; in California, for example, a state statute says that private universities cannot punish speech that the First Amendment prevents from being punished in public universities.
Some universities, including public ones, have cancelled the appearances of polarizing and potentially violent speakers invited to their campuses. Why doesn’t CSUF do the same?
Several public universities have recently denied requests from white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on their campuses, citing the violence in Charlottesville as cause to invoke prior restraint in the name of public safety. We are not aware of any public university that has cancelled an already scheduled appearance, or an invitation issued by a legally independent student group. It should also be noted that in previous attempts to block Spencer from speaking on campuses, he has sued those campuses and won. Lawsuits have already been filed against some of the public universities that recently denied Spencer’s requests.
Cancelling events must be a last resort to be used only when the campus, despite taking all reasonable steps, believes that it cannot protect the safety of its students, staff and faculty. Events can never legally be canceled based on the likely offensiveness of the speaker’s message.
What would happen if CSUF were to illegally cancel the talk of a speaker who was invited by a student group?
If CSUF were to illegally cancel the talk of a speaker invited by a student group, it could be sued by the speaker or by the student group. A court could issue an order requiring the campus to allow the speaker. The court could also potentially award money damages to the speaker and student group, and the campus, if it loses such a lawsuit, would also be liable for paying the attorney fees of the speaker and student group. There are many instances, including in California, where public universities have been sued in exactly this way when they have tried to exclude speakers.
Does the university charge different fees for events hosted by various Registered Student organizations?
The University does not charge any venue-related fees due to a Registered Student Organization’s invited speaker’s speech content.
Registered Student Organizations must abide by the appropriate policies and procedures for associated costs varying upon the venue, which may include a cost for basic event security, sound, equipment, etc.,