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College students rally to abolish campus-speech zone

By The Associated Press
10.22.03

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Free-speech advocates are calling on Southwest Missouri State University to repeal policies that they believe restrict speech on campus.

Ryan Cooper, president of the Young Americans for Freedom, is leading an effort to repeal policies that regulate when, where and how protests, demonstrations and rallies can be held on campus.

"President (John) Keiser, we want free speech and we want it now!" Cooper, a junior, yelled yesterday during a rally in the school's designated free-speech zone. "Mr. Keiser, if you care about free speech, if you really care about public affairs, tear down this wall."

Members of Cooper's group and others then knocked down a wall of cardboard boxes erected to symbolize the school's "walling in" of free speech to an area north of the Plaster Student Union.

"And just because no one has challenged them doesn't make it right," Cooper told an audience of about 40 students, faculty and administrators including Don Aripoli, vice president for student affairs, and Earle Doman, dean of students.

The policies require groups to register in advance if they plan to protest, demonstrate or hold any other kind of public forum.

Cooper and others, including some faculty, believe the policies are unconstitutional.

But school officials say the rules are meant to prevent public demonstrations from disrupting classes and studying.

After yesterday's half-hour rally ended, about two dozen students, led by Cooper, walked to Keiser's office to present him with petitions containing what Cooper said were 250 signatures asking that the policies be repealed.

Keiser was not in town yesterday, but the petitions were left with his office secretary. Cooper also left a note for the college president.

"We look forward to meeting you someday," he wrote. "Maybe we could get together for lunch and discuss eliminating awful policies that restrict free speech."


Update
University officials ease rules for campus rallies
Student Ryan Cooper, president of Young Americans for Freedom, had challenged Southwest Missouri State policy in federal court. 12.24.03

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