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A student religious group that had previously been permitted to use the facilities sued the school after being informed of the change in policy, asserting that their First Amendment rights to religious free exercise and free speech were being violated.
The Court’s decision ensured greater access to public facilities by religious organizations, and held that the state was not assumed to be in support of all messages that were communicated in their facilities.
In this decision, the Court first affirmed public college students’ First Amendment rights of free speech and association, saying those constitutional protections apply with the same force on a state university campus as in the larger community.
However, many-in fact, most-private colleges and universities advertise themselves as bastions of free and liberal learning, where all viewpoints can be expressed, discussed, and debated.
Most private universities promise their students extensive speech rights in school materials such as student handbooks, recruiting brochures, and codes of conduct. 2005) (“A contractual relationship cannot be based on isolated provisions in a student manual….[A] private religious university’s values and mission must be left to the discretion of the university.”). 145 (2010) (analyzing restrictions of free speech at private institutions in violation of stated policy, and arguing that contract theory provides the best legal mechanism for holding universities accountable for such violations).
The Board of Regents of New York had prepared a list of subversive organizations, including the Communist Party, and determined that membership in these organizations was sufficient reason for a teacher’s disqualification.
The Court held that the proscription of “treasonable or seditious” conduct and of “advocacy” of violent overthrow was unconstitutional for vagueness: A teacher could not foretell whether statements about abstract doctrine were prohibited, or whether only speech intended to incite action was grounds for dismissal.
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In holding for the teacher, the Court wrote eloquently that: The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident.