The right to free speech gained new ground last month at Dixie State University because of three students who refused to be silenced.
The right to free speech gained new ground last month—not in some distant land, as one might expect, but at Dixie State University, because of three students who refused to be silenced.
The case of Jergins v. Williams, a lawsuit filed on March 4, 2015, by students William Jergins, Forrest Gee, and Joey Gillespie, ended in a settlement on Sept. 17 that resulted in a major revision of Dixie State’s once restrictive speech codes.
Jergins was a senior at Dixie State when the events that led to the lawsuit began. According to an article he wrote for the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) website, Jergins and some of his fellow students started a YAL club in the fall semester of 2014. Due to delays caused by the university’s lengthy approval process, the club could not be active until a month and a half after the beginning of the semester.
“Knowing the long delay had cost us a lot in terms of student interest and engagement, we attempted to hit the new semester hard with as many events as quickly as possible,” said Jergins in his article. “And that’s where the real trouble began.”
The university refused to approve fliers designed by the YAL club because they mocked former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, and Che Guevara.
Afterward, Jergins proposed a free speech wall display on campus to generate interest in the club. The university responded by telling Jergins and his fellow club members that they could display their free speech wall only in a designated free speech zone.
Jergins was at a loss, until he met a representative from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education at a YAL conference in New Orleans, La., and explained his club’s plight.
“He gave me his contact information and he followed up a week later and we decided on the lawsuit in the conversations that followed,” Jergins said.
Jergins, Gillespie, and Gee were represented by attorneys Robert Corn-Revere, Ronald London, and Lisa Zycherman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
When asked if the university was cooperative when faced with the lawsuit, Corn-Revere, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, said they were forthcoming.