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Roberts v. Haragan

From June 2003 to September 2004
Texas Tech University Law School (Public college or university)
Lubbock, Texas, USA

Identity of Speakers

  • Jason W. Roberts
    Student
    Other

    Jason Roberts was a student at Texas Tech University at the time of the actions at issue in the lawsuit.

Resources

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other student-organized event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    Held unconstitutional
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

Jason Roberts—a student at Texas Tech University Law School (“TTU”)—planned to give a speech and pass out literature on campus expressing his religious and political views on homosexuality. TTU had designated a “free speech area” on campus that did not require any prior permission for student use. Roberts, however, wanted to give his speech at a street corner outside of the free speech area. In line with TTU’s policy on student speech, Roberts submitted a request form seeking permission to give his speech at his desired location. The university denied his request to speak at that location, urging him to speak in the “free speech area.” Roberts appealed this rejection to the Director of the Center of Campus Life who approved Roberts’ request but moved the permissible location across the intersection, citing traffic and safety issues. Roberts agreed to this decision but, citing personal reasons, notified the university that he would not make his speech on the date requested. After this correspondence with university administrators, Roberts filed a complaint in the Northern District of Texas alleging that TTU’s policy governing student speech violated the First Amendment. Soon after, TTU amended this policy. Although Roberts challenged both the original and amended policies, the court found the challenge to the original policy moot given the amendments TTU made to that policy. However, the court held on summary judgment that several provisions in TTU’s amended policy violated the First Amendment. The court gave multiple reasons for its ruling. One reason was that the university failed to show that its “interests in controlling harassing or insulting student speech is [sic] significant enough to justify trespass on students’ First Amendment freedom in areas outside of the University’s nonpublic forum areas.” The court also reasoned that a different section of TTU’s speech policy was not narrowly tailored, making that section “unconstitutional because it sweeps too broadly in imposing a burden on a substantial amount of expression that does not interfere with any significant interests of the University.” Thus, the court ultimately struck down several provisions of TTU’s amended student speech policy as unconstitutional, granting declaratory and injunctive relief to Roberts.