Campus Pamphleteering: The Emerging Constitutional Standards

Beginning with Lovell v. City of Griffin, the Supreme Court has consistently held the distribution of handbills to be a fundamental right under the first amendment. Since Lovell, the Court has liberally construed the concept of a public forum where first amendment rights can be properly exercised. More recently, the Court has held that schools cannot arbitrarily or absolutely regulate students’ constitutional rights of expression. These three principles would suggest great protection for handbilling rights on state university campuses. A further analysis of case law indicates that broad free speech standards governing such rights exist and that the exercise of university regulatory power in this area is constitutionally suspect. The purpose of this article is to determine the nature and extent of these constitutional standards. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the extent to which a state university is a public forum, the requisites of a constitutionally permissible regulation governing state campus handbilling, and finally, when a state university may bar handbilling regardless of the existence of or compliance with a regulation.