by Max Brantley
Gary Bowman, a street preacher who stirred a bit of controversy at UA-Fayetteville back in 2002 with his frequent campus rants, prompted rules on campus speech by outside speakers. He was limited to five days' of speaking per semester, and only after three days' notice, and he was prohibited from speaking on "dead days," when students are preparing for finals.
He sued, saying the restrictions were too limiting. He lost in district court. Today, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals gave him a partial victory.
It said the university could require a permit to speak in the area outside the student union and it also upheld the three-day reservation notice for speakers. The court also agreed the UA could limit speaking on dead days. But, it said the five-day speaking limitation was an "unnecessary abridgement" of Bowman's free speech. It said the university had not proved its contention that a five-day limitation was necessary so that the university could guarantee a diversity of opinions in the public forum.