The reason that Virginia Tech did not bother enforcing these burdensome requirements on Thursday night is obvious: the university would have been universally condemned for stopping these students from mourning the death of police officer and Iraq War veteran Deriek W. Crouse, and rightfully so. But here’s the thing — in a free society, your freedom of expression cannot and must not depend on the willingness of the authorities to bend their own rules.
The fact that hundreds of universities across America continue to defy the Constitution and reserve the right to prohibit and forcibly break up candlelight vigils like this one on their campuses is a national scandal. America’s institutions of higher education can do better. Thursday’s vigil at Virginia Tech shows that it’s long past time that they did.
Robert Shibley is the senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).