First Amendment and University Listservs Question
hendersl at ix.netcom.com
Fri Sep 3 11:40:14 PDT 2004
First amendment experts on conlawprof: I am writing for assistance in dealing with a First Amendment problem that has surfaced here at UNLV regarding the use of our law school listservs/university listservs. (or at least I see it as a potential problem) I am much more concerned about the impact on student First Amendment rights than faculty/employee rights at this point. Does anyone know of cases involving listservs at schools?
The UNLV policy states that UNLV student elections are *exempt* from the following policy:
"UNLV campus mail and a-mail will not be used to distribute political material in any form. This applies to both members and nonmembers of the University Community."
Currently, we have several listservs at the law school, several of which are "dedicated"--eg, for posting messages about events, meetings, etc., one for faculty & administration posting of messages to students or particular classes, and one for students. None of the lists is formally moderated, though occasionally someone will point out the use of "info" or "admin" is for a particular purpose.
The student listserv has been unmoderated and has been used for all kinds of things, it is not dedicated to any purpose, and students can easily opt out if they want. Free-wheeling debate on student listserv is putting it mildly at times. And Messages on "info" frequently cross over into debates or commentaries rather than announcements of events.
Several of us law profs believe that the student listserv is a public forum and the University's prohibition of political speech is pure content-based discrimination. Vagueness and overbreadth also seem to be problems (eg, a student gets a message from the Young Republicans, or MoveOn.org or whatever on her university a-mail; can the University punish both the student and the Young Republicans? Or as one student observed, can you ban the Foo Liberation Army from criticizing the Gibbit Administration?)
Any analysis/advice on First Amendment issues and cases would be gratefully received and appreciated!
Prof. Lynne Henderson
Boyd School of Law--UNLV
4505 Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89154
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