Princetonians for Free Speech released a survey of Princeton University students that paints a harrowing portrait of student opinion regarding the first and most important item in the Bill of Rights.
When asked about their own speech, students reported:
Princeton is by no means alone. If polls of student opinion regarding free speech were taken at many other higher education institutions, we have no doubt that similar results would be seen.
Like many other universities, Princeton has struggled to defend speech in the age of cancellation. This survey falls on the heels of the firing of Joshua Katz, and comes after the enunciation of a free speech policy by Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber.
Perhaps the Princeton community would do well to consider the words of one of its most famous alumni, a graduate from the days when the university was called the College of New Jersey.
James Madison, father of the First Amendment, wrote: “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
An op-ed penned by two Harvard professors announces the creation of an academic freedom council to actively protect free speech on that campus. In an op-ed in The Boston Globe, this document declares its purpose as boldly as if it had been nailed to a church door.
Celebrity author and psychologist Steven Pinker and Bertha Madras of Harvard begin their piece by detailing the sorry state of affairs in academia – viral videos of professors being mobbed, cursed, heckled into silence, and sometimes assaulted. They quote the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression that of the 877 attempts to punish scholars across the United States for expression protected by the First Amendment, there were 114 incidents of censorship and 156 firings.
“More,” they note, “than during the McCarthy era.”
After detailing the value of open inquiry – apparently, remedial education for some in higher education – Pinker and Madras describe the corruption of ideas caused by censorship. Even when the academic consensus is almost undoubtedly correct, many will still distrust the truth because it “comes out of a clique that brooks no dissent.”
Pinker and Madras also describe the incentives that allow those intent on intimidation to take over a campus that once housed the first printing press in British North America.
“A cadre of activists may find meaning and purpose in their cause and be willing to stop at nothing to prosecute it, while a larger number may disagree but feel they have other things to do with their time than push back,” they write. “The activists command an expanding arsenal of asymmetric warfare, including the ability to disrupt events, the power to muster physical or electronic mobs on social media, and a willingness to smear their targets with crippling accusations of racism, sexism, or transphobia in a society that rightly abhors them.”
And don’t expect an “exploding bureaucracy for policing harassment and discrimination” to be helpful when their professional interests “are not necessarily aligned with the production and transmission of knowledge.” Things are made even worse, they write, when “right-wing muscle” attempts to offset “left-wing muscle” by passing laws to stipulate the content of higher education.
To correct this imbalance, Pinker and Madras announced the creation of a Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard.
“When an individual is threatened or slandered for a scholarly opinion, which can be emotionally devastating, we will lend our personal and professional support,” they write. “When activists are shouting into an administrator’s ear, we will speak calmly but vigorously into the other one, which will require them to take the reasoned rather than the easy way out.”
As of this writing, over one hundred Harvard faculty and staff have signed on to the council. With such leadership at one of the premier universities of the nation, we would not be surprised to see councils on academic freedom pop up on campuses around the country.
Sen. Tim Scott: “Freedom of Speech Isn’t Just a Nice Idea”
In recent years, religious organizations at public colleges and universities have had to struggle for the right to exist on campus. The Christian organization InterVarsity Christian Fellowship had to go to court against Wayne State University after having its status as an official student club revoked in 2017.
When federal Judge Robert H. Cleland ruled on this case in 2021, he wrote that other student groups were allowed to restrict their leadership based on sex, gender identity, political partisanship, ideology, creed, ethnicity, GPA or even attractiveness. However, the judge wrote, the “small group of Christians … were denied [student organization] benefits because they require their Christian leaders to be … Christian.”
Judge Cleland ruled in favor of InterVarsity Fellowship.
As many jurists have noted, freedom of association is essential to freedom of speech. An organization must have integrity in the sense of being whole in its beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church would no longer exist if it were forced to hire atheists as priests. The Freedom from Religion Foundation would crumble if forced to accept Roman Catholic priests into its leadership. Discrimination that would be illegal – and immoral – in a business is necessary for a religious, political, or ideological organization to exist and function.
Despite InterVarsity’s victory, many religious organizations – by no means only Christian in nature – have struggled to find acceptance as recognized clubs on campuses where virtually every other kind of organization is readily accepted. To protect religious rights and diversity, the Trump Administration issued a rule in November 2020 called the “Free Inquiry Rule” that protects the rights of religious student groups at public colleges and universities. Religious student organizations could no longer be defunded because they have leadership policies that conflict with campus anti-discrimination rules.
One Muslim leader, Ismail Royer, praised the Trump-era regulation to The Christian Post as an important policy for Muslim student organizations because it allows them “to select their own leaders and define their own mission by their faith’s principles.” He continued: “This right should be reserved for all student organizations, and not usurped by university officials based on their own shifting, unpredictable standards.”
Yet in August 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it was reviewing the Free Inquiry Rule. With the end of a comment period for this proposed rule change in late March, the administration is preparing to rescind existing protections.
Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and James Lankford (R-OK), along with Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), are responding by introducing a bill to head off a reversal of the Free Inquiry Rule. They introduced the Equal Campus Access Act of 2023 to protect religious student organizations from discrimination on campus.
“Too many public institutions of higher learning are silencing the voices of faith-based student groups, and I am proud to join my colleagues in standing up for the First Amendment," said Sen. Tim Scott. "Freedom of speech isn’t just a nice idea – it’s a core American ideal.”
“On America’s college campuses, freedom of expression is under attack,” said Sen. Lankford. “Colleges need to remain an open arena for debate, discussion – and most importantly – faith.”
“Over the past few years, we have seen a concerning increase of incidents on college campuses where free speech and free association of students has been restricted due to religious beliefs,” Rep. Walberg said. “Students should not have to give up their First Amendment rights of speech, religion, and association to attend a public college …”
Protect The 1st will closely monitor the administration’s rule change, its language and impact, and any legislative proposals offered in response to that change.
Disruptive Associate Dean Put “On Leave"
Stanford University Law School Dean Jennifer S. Martinez penned a 10-page letter that is a masterful defense of the spirit of the First Amendment in higher education. Along the way, she demonstrates that behavior has consequences. Dean Martinez announced that Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach, who orchestrated student hecklers’ abusive veto of the remarks of federal judge Kyle Duncan, is now “on leave.”
After that traumatic event, Dean Martinez arrived at the classroom where she teaches her constitutional law class. She found her whiteboard covered in fliers. One read: “We, the students in your constitutional law class, are sorry for exercising our 1st Amendment rights.” Some on Twitter made snarky remarks that these law students don’t understand that the First Amendment only restrains the government. It does not cover an elite, private university. But the snarks are wrong.
In her letter, Dean Martinez responds that the First Amendment certainly does apply to the university. She cites California’s Leonard Law, a statute that prohibits private colleges from making or enforcing rules that would punish students for speech that would be protected under the First Amendment and California Constitution in a public university. The problem is, for the protestors who shut down the judge’s speech, the students in need of protection would be the members of the Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society who invited the judge to Stanford.
That legalistic approach is necessary. After all, Martinez writes, her students are in a law school. But the body of her piece is about the spirit of debate and open exchange that is the heart of a First Amendment society.
Martinez distinguishes between an indoor university classroom and an outdoor event, where under settled First Amendment law, boisterous demonstrations might be more acceptable. Students also have a right to silently uphold signs indoors. But they do not have a right to shout down speakers.
Central to Martinez’s letter is that “diversity, equity, and inclusion actually means that we must protect free expression of all views.” That principle, apparently shocking to some, includes protection of the conservative Federalist Society. Those who don’t understand this are turning their backs on “rights to freedom of association that civil rights lawyers fought hard in the twentieth century to secure.”
Martinez embraces the 1967 Kalven Report, popularly known as the University of Chicago principles. It declares: “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.”
Having set the logical premise of her argument, Martinez turns to a powerful peroration, likening the DEI ethos prevalent in today’s campuses to a call for academic and philosophical freedom.
“We support diversity, equity, and inclusion when we encourage people in our community to reconsider their own assumptions and potential biases. We support diversity, equity, and inclusion when we encourage students to connect with and see each other as people.”
She adds that “some students might feel that some points should not be up for argument and therefore that they should not bear the responsibility of arguing them (or even hearing arguments about them), but however appealing that position might be in some other context, it is incompatible with the training that must be delivered in a law school. Law students are entering a profession in which their job is to make arguments on behalf of clients whose very lives may depend on their professional skill. Just as doctors in training must learn to face suffering and death and respond in their professional role, lawyers in training must learn to confront injustice or views they don’t agree with and respond as attorneys.”
She concludes by announcing that the law school will be holding a mandatory half-day session in spring quarter for all students on the topic of freedom of speech and the norms of the legal profession.
No doubt, such training is necessary. For those of a certain age who remember reading Milton’s Areopagitica in high school, it is worrisome that an elite law school must conduct remedial training on the value of open debate and free speech. Dean Martinez’s letter shows many in academia are willing to take strong moves to reignite devotion to the First Amendment.
We let some time pass for all the details to come in about the auto-da-fé that students and staff inflicted on Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Let us review these details and then suggest some next steps for Stanford.
Multiple sources and video confirm the judge was shouted down, berated, and abused during a lecture he had been invited to give to the Federalist Society chapter at Stanford Law on “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter.”
In the leadup to Judge Duncan’s talk, students at Stanford Law put up flyers that not only targeted Judge Duncan, but also students in the Federalist Society, posting their pictures and saying they “should be ashamed.” Over 70 students also emailed the FedSoc chapter asking it to cancel the event or move it to Zoom, arguing that Duncan has “proudly threatened healthcare and basic rights for marginalized communities.”
On the day of the event, around 100 protesters picketed outside the event, booing attendees, and calling out individual classmates. Protesters came into the room, holding signs with political slogans and shouting over any attempt by Judge Duncan to speak. For about ten minutes, Judge Duncan tried to give his planned remarks, but the protestors simply yelled over him.
Tirien Steinbach, Stanford Law’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the University's student-relations representative, initially allowed protestors to continue to disrupt the event. She failed to enforce the school's policy against disrupting speakers, despite assurances given to this speaker that he would be protected.
Finally, Dean Steinbach stood up to control the crowd, but only after taking time to criticize Judge Duncan, saying that he “has caused harm.” Rather than telling disruptive students to respect the speech of a sitting federal judge and ask challenging questions later, Steinbach stated that “this event is tearing at the fabric of this community that I care about and am here to support.”
Steinbach repeatedly asks: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” She clarified “is it worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes?” Apparently free expression is only worth defending if a diversity administrator finds it not divisive (a standard as old as the trial of Socrates).
Steinbach finally encourages the students to allow Judge Duncan to speak, but without any serious reprimand to the protesters who violated school disruption policies, who lobbed verbal abuse at fellow students and the judge, and who held the most power in this situation. Thus, she validated their tactics and set a terrible precedent.
Although Judge Duncan was eventually allowed to speak, he never gave his prepared remarks as the audience moved directly to Q&A. The questions were predictably unbecoming of law students at one of the nation’s top schools. One heckler hurled lewd insults, and Judge Duncan had to be escorted out by federal marshals.
After the event, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Stanford law school dean Jenny Martinez issued a joint statement apologizing to Judge Duncan. Citing Dean Steinbach’s speech, the statement said that “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”
This incident was beyond unacceptable. You don’t have to agree with the judge’s views on jurisprudence or gender to worry about where such behavior is heading. While Protect The 1st is pleased by Stanford’s statement, it is only a baby step in the right direction. Stanford must commit itself to restoring freedom of speech, academic freedom, and respect for diversity of thought.
Stanford can begin by inviting Judge Duncan back to speak. Such a gesture would send a strong message that Stanford is truly interested in what a sitting federal Judge has to say. In January, Yale Law did much the same when it reinvited Kristen Waggoner, CEO, President, and General Counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, to speak after undergoing a similar struggle session. That protest caused a firestorm, with some judges announcing they would not consider Yale Law graduates for clerkships.
Stanford could also take a hard look at the culture of censorship and surveillance that it, like many schools around the country, has built in the last few years. Last month, Protect The 1st reported on Stanford’s bias reporting system, which is used to anonymously report on students or faculty who commit wrongthink. Scores of Stanford faculty have called on the university to investigate free speech and academic freedom on campus, and to abolish the anonymous reporting system. What happened to Judge Duncan is just one flare-up of the chronic problem of intolerance, fear, and repression present on some college campuses.
And if Dean Steinbach and students do this to another speaker, Stanford must defend its reputation by firing Dean Steinbach and suspending or expelling students.
A federal district judge in Oregon late Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of students who have soured on the religious colleges they attend (or have attended), seeking to overturn the religious exemption that Congress included in federal law to protect the right of religious colleges and universities to adhere to the tenets of their faith.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits educational programs or activities receiving federal funds from excluding, denying benefits to, or subjecting to discrimination any person on the basis of sex. Congress, however, included a narrow exception to Title IX when an educational institution “is controlled by a religious organization” holding “religious tenets.”
Forty people who applied to, attended, or currently attend religious colleges and universities filed suit against the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that religious schools discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The plaintiffs alleged that the “religious exemption to Title IX exerts a chilling effect” on their free exercise of religion, speech, assembly, and association.
District Judge Ann Aiken noted that the Supreme Court has upheld the obvious principle that churches “advance religion, which is their very purpose.” Nor did Judge Aiken buy the plaintiffs’ argument that the religious exemption somehow violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The judge noted, “the text is clear that government granting exemptions does not constitute a violation …”
In short, Judge Aiken ruled “the balance of equities” fails to tip in the favor of the plaintiffs.
“This ruling is a big win for the rights of religious universities and colleges,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of Protect The 1st. “It upholds the First Amendment rights of these schools to advocate the tenets of their faiths, and to freely associate on that basis.”
On December 21st, the faculty senate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology voted to approve a “Free Expression Statement,” defending speech and expression at the university. The statement asserts that “learning from a diversity of viewpoints, and from the deliberation, debate, and dissent that accompany them, are essential ingredients of academic excellence.”
The Free Expression Statement was approved by a vote of 98 to 52, a sizable margin showing that respect for free expression is alive and well at MIT. Not only does the statement enshrine respect for free speech, viewpoint diversity, and debate as cornerstones of academic integrity, but so too does it defend the right to speech that may hurt or offend. “We cannot prohibit speech that some experience as offensive or injurious,” the statement reads.
The Free Expression Statement is the culmination of a year’s work by MIT’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression, and was incited by last year’s invitation for, and subsequent cancellation of, a speech by geophysicist Dorian Abbot. Abbot was invited to present 2021’s annual John Carlson Lecture, which “communicates exciting new results in climate science to the general public.” Protestors led a successful campaign to disinvite Abbot because of his critical views on the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
That the Free Expression Statement was adopted by the faculty senate goes a long way towards rectifying the mistakes of last year, but it still has further to go. “[MIT] President Kornbluth can set a strong example by endorsing the free expression statement herself, as well as by considering and implementing the thoughtful recommendations of the free expression working group,” said Peter Bonilla, Executive Director for the MIT Free Speech Alliance.
PT1 strongly supports the passage of the Free Expression Statement by the faculty senate at MIT. We look forward to further efforts to preserve and protect free speech at MIT and at universities across the country.
The Alliance Defending Freedom scored a win in federal court recently when it represented a Christian student organization that says it was the target of viewpoint discrimination at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
Ratio Christi — Latin for “the reason of Christ” — is a multinational organization that “equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ.” In 2021, the UNL chapter requested $1,500 in student activity funding to host Notre Dame Professor Robert Audi. Professor Audi, who previously taught at UNL for nearly thirty years, was slated to give a speech on whether it is rational to believe in God. The University rejected the request, stating that funding could not be provided for “speakers of a political and ideological nature."
The University also stated that Ratio Christi must invite a speaker to represent the opposite views of Audi to obtain the funding. In their suit, the ADF called this “viewpoint discriminatory on its face.” The policy set forward by the university “gives University officials unbridled discretion to engage in viewpoint discrimination by failing to set out narrow, objective, and definite standards for the disbursement of student fees for extracurricular speech.”
Thankfully, a federal court recently ruled in favor of the ADF and Ratio Christi. On December 15th, the ADF announced that the university accepted the court’s judgment and agreed to pay Ratio Christi $1,500. Additionally, the university also changed its student organization funding policy “to promote the availability of diverse viewpoints to UNL students […]”
Protect The 1st congratulates the Alliance Defending Freedom and Ratio Christi on their hard-fought legal victory. We also commend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for accepting the Court’s judgment with magnanimity, and for taking necessary steps to ensure academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are upheld.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida recently halted the enforcement of several higher education-related provisions of that state’s “Stop WOKE Act.” This action by a federal judge highlights the pitfalls of trying to extend Florida’s popular movement to define teaching about race and gender for elementary and secondary public schools to higher education.
In September, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the law’s higher-education restrictions. The Stop WOKE Act expands Florida’s anti-discrimination laws to prohibit schools and companies from promoting ideas of race- or sex-based guilt to students and employees. A person should not be made to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex, or national origin. The law includes higher education instruction, a provision that led to a proposal to link tenure to a professor’s adherence to this law.
Like many laws restricting speech, the Stop WOKE Act sounds commendable, but the provisions at issue here would have the practical effect of making professors worry about their job security and tenure if they even touched on issues of race or gender in class. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, appointed by President Obama, called the law “positively dystopian.”
The law, Judge Walker wrote, “officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints.” Judge Walker even colored his 138-page order with a vivid passage from George Orwell’s 1984 to make his point. The legal basis for the order rests on long-established judicial principles that academic freedom and the First Amendment go together.
“[T]he First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark,” Judge Walker wrote.
While Protect The 1st believes Florida had every right to regulate curricula of early grades in public schools in response to parental guidance, the law goes too far in trying to pass academia-wide restrictions, particularly in private, non-state schools. Public school teachers act on behalf of the state, and there are only so many hours in the school day. The state has a right to prioritize what it believes are the most important, elemental lessons that students should learn.
But professors are not government spokespeople in the sense that public elementary school teachers are. Blanket restrictions on lessons and content, especially at the university level, strike at the very heart of academic freedom. Restrictions that could also chill the speech of professors at private universities or those with tenure expands the possibilities for future state intervention and widens the latitude for unconstitutional legislation.
If you believe there’s a problem with ideological conformity, cancel culture, or “wokeism” in higher education, this approach is not the way to address those concerns. If anything, suppressing speech would create martyrs and only make their speech more popular. If you believe that higher education has become an echo chamber, agitate for more diversity in backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas, but not a gag order.
More Students Support Violence Against Offensive Speakers
A new poll of undergraduate students reveals they lack a basic understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantees and are growing in acceptance of the heckler’s veto and even violence against speakers on campus.
These are the results of the William F. Buckley, Jr., Program’s eighth annual survey measuring the opinions of college students at four-year colleges and universities. One might wonder if a survey commissioned by a group named for the famous conservative author of God and Man at Yale might have a built-in bias of its own. But the survey, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates of 803 undergraduates nationwide, shows a clear deterioration in basic understanding of the principles of free speech that matches growing reports of intolerance for speech on campus over the last year.
The deterioration of speech principles in higher education begins as a failure in American secondary education. Students are not in disagreement with the American tradition of free speech and the Constitutional order as much as they seem to lack a basic understanding of what that tradition is.
As always, such discussions center around the most offensive speech imaginable, but the practical effect is to demonize anyone we disagree with as being the moral equivalent of a Nazi or Satan. Limiting speech on campus can come from conservatives as well as from liberals.
Students need to understand that – except for explicit calls to violence – hate speech, as contemptible as it is, is allowed in America. This is based on a mature understanding that once we outlaw one kind of speech, rhetorical contortions will be made to define any opposing argument as somehow being hateful and thus worthy of repression. Students are also not taught that outlawing hate speech does not eradicate it: rather, it drives such speech underground and glamorizes it. Repression endows hate speech with a glimmering allure for immature and unhealthy minds.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered the San Jose Unified School District to reinstate the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) as a recognized student club. A tartly written concurrence by one judge vividly portrays a hostile culture of secularism that may be behind some recent overreaching official efforts to isolate students from religious observance.
The issue at hand was that FCA leaders are required to abide by a Statement of Faith, which includes the belief that sexual relations should be limited within the context of a marriage between a man and a woman. Judge Kenneth K. Lee, one of two out of three judges on the panel that decided in favor of the FCA, wrote a stinging concurrence. He vividly portrays “a stench of animus against the students’ religious beliefs” that pervades San Jose’s Pioneer High School campus.
Judge Lee describes one Pioneer high school teacher, Peter Glasser, who “channeled his inner Martin Luther, pinning the [FCA’s] Statement of Faith and Sexual Purity Statement to his classroom whiteboard along with his grievances. But instead of a reformation, Glasser demanded an inquisition. As he explained in emails sent to Principal Espiritu, FCA’s ‘bs’ views ‘have no validity’ and amount to heresy because they violated ‘my truth.’ Glasser believed ‘attacking these views is the only way to make a better campus’ and proclaimed he would not be an ‘enabler for this kind of ‘religious freedom’ anymore.”
Judge Lee then turned to the behavior of another school official.
“Michelle Bowman,” Judge Lee writes, “also serves on the Climate Committee [a body that pushed to de-recognize the FCA] and as a faculty advisor to the Satanic Temple Club. In discussing this lawsuit with a former student, she opined that ‘evangelicals, like FCA, are charlatans and not in the least bit Christian,’ and choose darkness over knowledge and perpetuate ignorance.’ But it is not for Bowman to dictate what beliefs are genuinely Christian.”
Hit with this onslaught of attacks, the FCA was derecognized in two days without giving FCA students any opportunity to defend themselves or their organization. Judge Lee goes on to describe the efforts by Glasser and others to further accuse the expelled group of creating a hostile work environment for students and faculty because of their beliefs.
“In other words,” Judge Lee wrote, “teenagers – meeting privately to discuss the Bible – were creating a hostile work environment for adult faculty, according to Glasser.”
Judge Lee concludes: “In sum, animus against the FCA students’ religious-based views infected the School District’s decision to strip the FCA of its ASB status. And that violates the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.”
Just as religion should not be taught in the classroom, it should also be free of harassment by educators and officials.
When a federal district court upholds the First Amendment rights of a person or organization, can it enforce those rights in the future? The answer by The Protect the First Foundation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is a resounding “yes.”
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) of Tampa runs ads on its vehicles and bus shelters but prohibits ads that “promote a religious faith or religious organization.” When Young Israel of Tampa, an Orthodox synagogue, tried to place an ad for its “Chanukah on Ice” event, HART rejected those ads under its no-religion policy.
A district court came down on the side of Young Israel on First Amendment grounds and issued a permanent order or injunction forbidding HART from “rejecting any advertisement on the ground that the advertisement primarily promotes a religious faith or religious organization.” HART appealed, arguing that the district court’s injunction was an abuse of its powers and that HART’s advertising policy was constitutional.
The PT1st Foundation counter, filed Wednesday evening, demonstrates:
“First Amendment rights are fundamental rights essential to every other form of freedom. As a result, First Amendment rights warrant special protection. Because courts cannot enjoin conduct and do not ‘strike down’ unconstitutional laws, a court cannot adequately protect First Amendment interests without including prohibitions against future illegal conduct in its injunction.
“Without such preventative relief, governments would be free to repeat the same constitutional violation in the future. Any resolution of this case that fails to prevent future harm does not adequately vindicate the First Amendment.”
PT1st believes remedies to violations of the First Amendment should be as enduring as our right to free speech.
When Protect The 1st reports on crackdowns on campus speech, the stifling of First Amendment rights is usually the handiwork of either a combination of ideological zealots and cowardly administrators, or overweening state politicians. But in today’s global environment, the threat of retaliation for speech can also come from oppressive foreign governments operating on campus.
This is a rising concern with U.S. universities that financially benefit from the influx of students from the People’s Republic of China. In 2019-2020, 372,000 students from China studied in the United States. In 2020-2021, that number declined to 317,000. Given that Chinese students inject $15 billion into bursars’ coffers, even that modest drop in Chinese enrollment – due to Covid, geopolitics, and the rising allure of European and Australian universities – is concerning American academic leaders who’ve come to depend on this revenue stream.
Another concern, however, should be the price of freedom in the American academy that comes with the Chinese Student and Scholars Association (CSSA), a collegiate organization on 150 campuses across the United States. National Review’s Isaac Schorr reports how Kinen Kao, a Cornell University student, put up posters for a discussion about China’s treatment of Hong Kong, Uyghurs, and Tibet. Under the vigilant eye of CSSA, Kao’s materials were routinely vandalized and removed.
When Kao was physically assaulted by members of the Chinese student community, he pulled out his smartphone to record them – only to be pushed to the ground and have to fight to keep his phone from being snatched away. Such intimidation, as concerning as it is, is mild compared to reports of Chinese students having their families threatened with imprisonment or death after posting tweets or making on-campus statements critical of the regime.
A similar problem occurred on American campuses after the now largely defunct Confucius Institutes were identified by the U.S. State Department as “foreign missions” with “skewed” takes on issues that comport with the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. Schorr reports: “CSSA’s stated purpose is similarly cultural. A key difference, however, is that their marks are not unwitting Americans but Chinese students studying in the U.S. Propaganda remains the means, but the retention of Chinese nationals, rather than the recruitment of Americans, is the end.”
Of the 118 Confucius Institutes in the United States, 108 are closed or are being closed after being identified as centers of propaganda. American universities might similarly decide that there is no place on campus for state-sponsored ideological enforcers.