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After Lawsuit, UMass Drops Rule For Protests

The campus of UMass Amherst.
File photo
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
The campus of UMass Amherst.

The University of of Massachusetts has settled a lawsuit over a decades-old policy on the Amherst campus that a student group said limited its free speech.

A chapter of Young Americans for Liberty filed the federal suit in January over a regulation that said speeches and rallies with microphones during class hours were limited to between noon and 1 p.m.

"It was meant to limit disruption to classes due to the amplified sound," Mary Detloff, a UMass Amherst spokeswoman, said in a statement. "The Board of Trustees agreed to rescind the policy, since it is rarely, if ever, enforced and could be misinterpreted as a restriction on free speech."

The plaintiffs' attorney, Caleb Dalton with Alliance Defending Freedom, said that's exactly the problem.

"They can rarely enforce it. They can pick and choose when they want to shut down speech," he said. 

Dalton said it's a First Amendment principle called "chilling speech." His organization is the same one that helped win the recent Supreme Court case in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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