Can universities prevent the use of their computer services for the promotion of extremist views?
Because private universities are not agents of the government, they may forbid users from engaging in offensive speech using university equipment or university services; however, public universities, as agents of the government, must follow the First Amendment's prohibition against speech restrictions based on content or viewpoint. Nonetheless, public universities may promulgate content-neutral regulations that effectively prevent the use of school facilities or services by extremists. For example, a university may limit use of its computers and server to academic activities only. This would likely prevent a student from creating a racist Web site for propaganda purposes or from sending racist e-mail from his or her student e-mail account. One such policy -- at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana -- stipulates that its computer services are "provided in support of the educational, research and public service missions of the University and its use must be limited to those purposes." Universities depend on an atmosphere of academic freedom and uninhibited expression. Any decision to limit speech on a university campus -- even speech in cyberspace -- will inevitably affect this ideal. College administrators should confer with representatives from both the faculty and student body when implementing such policies.