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Clemson free speech group offers critique of University policy

In this specific instance with Clemson University, there have been policies put in place that are more restrictive than the Constitutional restrictions on free speech. The Constitutional restrictions are supposed to be the gold standard,” Alexander Cullen, a member of WeRoar stated in a recent interview with The Tiger News. 
In past weeks, Clemson’s free speech policy has been under close scrutiny by several on-campus associations following an incident involving community member, Robby Roberts. Roberts, who was on campus for the purpose of prayer and fellowship with students, was asked to take down a sign inviting students to join him in prayer. Roberts was additionally asked to fill out a form granting him permission to keep his sign posted if he wished to do so.  
“He wasn’t soliciting even by Clemson’s definition of soliciting…you have to go through a process that is illegally restrictive when you want to practice your freedom of speech on Clemson’s campus [if you are a non-university affiliated individual or group],” Cullen said.
Fellow WeRoar member Mitchell Gunter critiqued Clemson’s free speech policy regarding the non-Clemson affiliated.
“Clemson is a public institution, which receives taxpayer funding. Public universities must comply with the First Amendment…[and] shouldn’t be telling citizens where, when and how they can speak, unless the speech is illegal or disrupts university activities,” said Gunter.
WeRoar agrees that there are reasonable restrictions that ought to apply to free speech, like in cases of threats or libel, but Cullen said “your rights when you step on campus are the same rights you have when you’re downtown or pretty much anywhere else in the country, so there shouldn’t be a differentiation there.” 
WeRoar’s stance on freedom of speech is equivalent to the right to free speech guaranteed to citizens by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 
WeRoar does not identify itself as free speech purists. Rather, the group considers themselves a group of students that look at free speech as it is outlined in the Constitution and defend those rights. WeRoar aligns its mission with that of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) whose website states its mission is to “defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities… includ[ing] freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience.” 
Cullen said “our goal would basically…be getting their [FIRE’s] guidelines that derive from the Constitution to be Clemson’s policies.” 
Gunter points to Purdue as a model that Clemson may consider. For instance, Purdue, Gunter said, has guidelines for speech and expression on campus in line with the mission of FIRE. These guidelines are present on FIRE’s website.
“Purdue has many suggested areas which do not require, rather encourage prior permission from students or non-students. Expressive activity on all other areas of campus is also permissible, as long as the conduct ‘does not disrupt University activities and functions,” said Gunter. 
The goal of WeRoar, according to Gunter is to “stand for the rights of all students, even the speech that [their] members may or may not vehemently disagree with. Our mission is to ensure the Clemson community enjoys the full measure of their Constitutional liberty.” 
Cullen said, “If we want to see a marketplace of ideas and the betterment of ourselves then free speech is the way to go…WeRoar is trying to back that up as much as we can.”
University administration declined to comment or be interviewed for this article.

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