University of New Mexico introduces 'free speech zones' to curb complaints about controversial speakers

University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico is featured in this image.Wikimedia Commons/John Phelan

The University of New Mexico (UNM) has put up "Free Speech Zone" signs in several areas around the campus in an effort to reduce complaints about controversial speakers and events.

Ryan Lindquist, the university's director of Student Activities, said that the signs were put up because the school often receives complaints about speakers that are deemed too controversial.

"If we don't put up the signs, we get many requests to remove and ask speakers to leave," Lindquist said, as reported by KRQE.

The signs have been in use by the Student Activities Center since spring break for non-departmental and non-university-sponsored activities.

"Free Speech Zone Ahead: Topics discussed may be uncomfortable or controversial. The topics and opinions discussed are those of private individuals and not the University of New Mexico," the signs read, according to KRQE.

The Student Activities Center reportedly placed some of the signs at the site of an environmental rally on Monday. Others were reportedly posted around an area where an evangelist was preaching the Gospel.

Ryan Denton of Christ in the Wild Gospel Society took photos of the signs and shared them on his Facebook page. "New gospel-preacher warning system put in by UNM," he wrote in the description.

Lindquist said similar signs were posted at the university about a decade ago and were successful in bringing down the level of complaints about controversial speakers.

Some students said that the university should not be erecting the signs, as the administration should not have the right to decide which topics are labeled as controversial.

"When you put up those signs, it really seems like you're taking people away from those kind of events because they might not be comfortable with it," UNM senior Mary Lopez said, according to KRQE.

Others, however, agreed that the signs could help avoid potential disputes when discussing topics such as sex, religion or politics.

"You have people here just yelling at each other and screaming at each other and it really disrupts everybody's day," said UNM senior Mateo Messer, as reported by KRQE.

The university maintained that the signs are not meant to be trigger warnings but are instead aimed at telling students, university staff and visitors that they have the right to speak on campus.

Lindquist said that UNM is still considering whether the signs would be permanent fixtures at the campus.