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Young Americans for Liberty at Montclair State University v. Trustees of Montclair State University

January 2020
Montclair State University (Public college or university)
Montclair, NJ, USA

Resources

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

Montclair State University maintains a Demonstrations and Assemblies Policy, which regulates (1) demonstrating and assembling for purposes of expressing a view, providing information, or protesting; (2) displaying posters or distributing literature; (3) organizing activities that present differing viewpoints; or (4) expressing views at organized events and activities where the organizer solicits such views. Students are not permitted to assemble on campus without obtaining a permit from permission from the Office of the Dean of Students. An exception to this two-week policy exists for speech that is “spontaneous,” meaning that it is made “in response to emergent situations where advance planning is not possible.” This exception is limited to two locations on campus, however: (1) the Plaza outside the Student Center; and (2) the Amphitheater. In order to gain prior approval for a speech event, the organization must fill out a request form, which lists, among other things, the identity of the speaker, the date time, and location of the event, the objective of the event, and the materials that will be used to conduct the event. The University is then empowered to elect to approve, deny, or modify the request at its discretion. Further, the University is not required under the policy to make a determination within any time period. The University is furthermore entitled to make exceptions to the Speech Policy at its discretion. The University also maintains student organization regulations that allow it to assign students groups “Class” status. A higher class entitles a student group to more benefits from the Student Government Association (“SGA”). The SGA sets four levels of classes for its student groups, with Class I receiving the most benefits and Class IV receiving the least benefits. The SGA assigns a class to a particular organization based on a number of subjective and discretionary criteria, including a subjective viewpoint determination that the organization has “an appeal that reaches the general interest of the entire campus community or … that fosters pride and mobilizes awareness of the interests of a large, distinct, and prolific subculture of the campus community, as deemed by the discretion of the chartering process.” Student organizations must also apply for recharter every year (for Class IV organizations) or every two years (for Class I, II, or III organizations). During this re-chartering process, the organization must submit its constitution, the nature and purpose of the club, and appear before the Organizational Review Committee to answer questions about the organization, including questions about its benefit to the campus community. In addition to its Discussion and Assembly Policy and its SGA regulations, the University maintains a Bias Education Response Taskforce (“BERT”), which investigates and responds to reported incidents of bias incidents on campus. A “bias incident” is defined as “conduct, speech or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act.” Bias incident report forms can be submitted to the taskforce, where it will evaluate it for investigation and potential violation of the student conduct code or criminal law. BERT retains the ability to discipline students by punishing them for “bias incidents” under the Student Code of Conduct. The Student Code of Conduct further prohibiting ““discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying,” which is defined as “any gesture, written, verbal or physical act … whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents” that the “student directs at a specific group or individual.”