Student groups left out of Convocation

When can free speech be restricted on a college campus?

Thousands of new students gathered together at Northrop Auditorium and surrounding campus areas Tuesday evening to officially commence the start of their college careers. University student groups, however, were not present due to an interdiction made by the Student Unions & Activities department.

The ban prohibited student groups and individuals from handing out fliers and information at Northrop, Coffman and Riverbend Plazas, as well as Northrop Mall during Convocation. SUA explained to student groups that these areas would be off-limits during the event to ensure safe, efficient transportation of students to and from the Convocation celebrations.

While the request by SUA isn’t that huge of a deal in the grand scheme of things, the principle it is based upon does raise questions about where and when free speech can or should be restricted on a college campus.

Through this request, SUA specifically denied student groups their right to present themselves and their information to new students. While reasonable time, place or manner restrictions might be applied to limit the gathering of individuals or groups in public spaces, Convocation seems to be a very reasonable time and place for student groups to be allowed to present themselves to new students. Student groups are a vital part of the University community, and the University needs to ensure that new students have every chance possible to discover the marketplace of ideas the Student Unions & Activities groups have to offer.

It is understandable that getting students from one place to another was of utmost importance at Convocation. However, instead of placing restrictions, SUA should have given student groups other options to be present.

For more information regarding the hundreds of diverse student groups visit the Student Unions & Activities Web site at