University of Utah Students against Apartheid v. Peterson

649 F. Supp. 1200 (1986)

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University of Utah Students against Apartheid v. Peterson

United States District Court for the District of Utah
649 F. Supp. 1200 (1986)

Facts

Several students at the University of Utah (Utah) (defendant) formed a student organization, University of Utah Students against Apartheid (USAA) (plaintiff). USAA erected physical structures resembling shanties in an open grass area near Utah’s student union in order to protest the oppressive conditions experienced by Blacks in South Africa. Utah’s administration initially approved of the structures but eventually backtracked after following several incidents of violence. The shanties did not disrupt traffic or the functions of the university. At the time, Utah had no formal rules or regulations for student speech on campus. After negotiations between USAA and Utah stalled, Utah informed USAA that it was considering removing the structures. USAA filed suit seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Utah from removing the structures. The request was based on a claim that Utah’s forced removal of the structures would violate USAA’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Utah maintained that although the shanties were not disrupting academic affairs, they exposed the university to liability resulting from any incidents that occurred around them, which was not covered by the state government’s insurance risk pool. At a hearing, Utah’s president also cited concerns over cost, the risk of physical harm, and aesthetics.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Anderson, J.)

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