Has Penn State “bin Laden” with Speech-Squelching Policies?

Our friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) say yes:

The announcement late last evening that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan inspired celebrations outside the White House, in New York City, and on a number of college campuses. Spontaneous gatherings in response to major events—such as beginning or ending a war, an assassination, a heinous campus crime—are natural and to be expected. Unfortunately, many colleges maintain “free speech zones” and other restrictions on demonstrations that ban students from spontaneous protests. Last night, students demonstrated anyway.

Considering the importance of the event, it’s not surprising that police on some campuses put aside the rules in order to “let the large crowd ‘run its course,'” as at Penn State….

Sounds like a typically American demonstration, right? The trouble is, Penn State and Iowa State maintain “free speech zone” policies that tell students such spontaneous demonstrations are simply not acceptable. Penn State’s policy is here.

You might respond that it’s no matter; the policies weren’t enforced last night.  But the fact is, a bad policy is a bad policy.  Pennsylvania students, parents, and taxpayers deserve the best.  Not only that, bad policies invite selective enforcement.

FIRE, by the way, is the same group that coordinated a lawsuit against Shippensburg University after a student there testified that he and others had been ordered to take down fliers critical of bin Laden after 9/11.

Here’s video of the demonstration at Penn State: