Professor’s Firing Opens Debate on Free Speech and Safe Spaces on College Campuses

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The United States Constitution includes words about the freedom of the press in the First Amendment. As with all the amendments, there are frequent questions about their interpretations. In late 2015, Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Missouri, attempted to block the press from covering a protest on campus. Her actions and her subsequent firing raises questions about the First Amendment and how it is interpreted on college campuses, especially regarding student-led events. Many schools, including Indiana University and its IUPUI affiliates do not have policies about excluding or admitting the press to cover student events.

The issue in the IUPUI system is that public college campuses are just that – public spaces. There are other types of spaces in public colleges, traditional and limited public spaces and there are also nonpublic spaces like concert halls and power plants. Another problem with blocking the freedom of the press to attend student-run events includes the possibility of blocking the freedom of students to assemble. The Indiana Constitution has stronger protections for the press and for those who want to assemble than the federal Constitution has. Due to the issues involved in maintaining the First Amendment, college campuses, like IUPUI need to develop clear policies that protect the First Amendment rights of the press, students, and professionals on campus.

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Felix Rippy
Felix Rippy is a graduate certificate recipient at Indiana University’s Graduate School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Rippy is a writer and speaker on matters of public policy including public funding, campus speech and public safety. Rippy is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University (BA, History), he holds a JD and MBA from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the University of Texas School of Law School.