UMBC to change policy on student displays
**Pro-life student group will withdraw lawsuit if new policy followed
**The University of Maryland, Baltimore County will change its facilities-use policies after a student pro-life group claimed its First Amendment rights were violated when its display featuring graphic images of aborted fetuses was moved away from a prominent public area on campus.
While lawyers for UMBC said in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Friday that the school’s decision to move Rock for Life-UMBC’s display was “content neutral,” it agreed to revise rules as to when university officials are allowed to move a student group display without notice, such as inclement weather or safety concerns.
Members of Rock for Life, a registered student organization at UMBC, were given permission by university officials in mid-April 2007 to put up a display outside one of the university’s main buildings on April 30, 2007, according to Rock for Life’s complaint filed in April 2008.
The display was from the Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling exhibit for college campuses featuring graphic images of abortion sponsored by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a California-based pro-life group. The display consists of either 6-foot-by-13-foot posters or 4-foot-by-6-foot-posters.
But, according to the complaint, the group was told to move its display two times — once on April 25 and again on April 30 before the display was set up — to progressively “more deserted” areas on campus.
Aden said the university moved Rock for Life because of its message, noting larger events and other student groups have used the space Rock for Life originally requested.