Sunday, October 22, 2017

Florida: Libertarian student says college is suppressing her speech

A libertarian student says she has repeatedly had her First Amendment rights suppressed by Flagler College in a free speech battle that has been going on for several months.

Administrators recently told Kelli Huck that she could not roll a free speech ball around campus without being sponsored by an official student group.

Months earlier, however, student government rejected her request to start a YAL chapter based on opposition to YAL's "political agenda."

A libertarian student has repeatedly had her First Amendment rights suppressed by Flagler College in a free speech battle that has been going on for several months.

Most recently, student Kelli Huck was prevented from holding a free-speech ball demonstration on campus because she had failed to register the event ten days in advance.

"I wanted to let Flagler students exercise their right to free speech, but the man is keeping me down."   

“You didn’t reserve the space ten days prior to an event with a recognized student organization,” an unidentified administrator informed Huck, suggesting that she “team up with another group that kind of shares the same views,” particularly recommending the Student Government Association (SGA).

However, as Huck responds in a video of the encounter, the SGA has actually denied Huck’s request for official recognition of her Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, thus preventing her from reserving space in the first place.

In fact, Campus Reform reported in March that Flagler’s administration threatened to cancel the same demonstration after the student government denied YAL’s recognition for a second time, accusing the group of “trending towards one certain political agenda.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) later sent two letters to the school, urging SGA and the administration to reverse course.

“Unfortunately, the threat to freedom of speech posed by the SGA’s actions has cascaded into yet another violation of Flagler students’ expressive rights, as YAL’s unrecognized status has now been used as a basis to deny its members the right to engage in expressive activity in the outdoor areas of campus,” FIRE wrote in a March letter. “The actions of both the SGA and the Flagler College administration violate the college’s stated commitment to freedom of expression and must be reversed immediately.”

Huck, however, has yet to be granted official recognition, remarking in a recent Facebook post that just wanted to “advocate civil and economic liberties.”

“I wanted to let Flagler students exercise their right to free speech, but the man is keeping me down,” she wrote. “I got asked to leave campus after having my third free speech ball. [It’s] ridiculous when I just want to advocate civil and economic liberties.”


Time to End Obama-Era DOE Suspension Discrimination

New study shows that poverty and disability are the biggest factors for student suspension, not race

Recall in 2014 Barack Obama’s Education Department instituted a policy aimed at “equalizing” suspension rates between white and black students. As the Associated Press reported at the time, “Black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in school, but almost half of the students suspended more than once.” In instituting the new nationwide policy Obama’s DOE argued that it was needed in order to “dismantle what is commonly named the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’” In fact, the policy was race-based at its heart, with the DOE communicating that it would interpret the “disparate impact” of disciplinary suspensions by race as discriminatory even if there was no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

A 2015 poll showed that 59% of teachers were opposed to the new policy guidelines. (We’re guessing the other 41% were 10% true believers and 31% too afraid to speak up.) And the reason was obvious, as one teacher explained, “There’s nothing going to happen, and the kids know it. It’s hard to keep order in a classroom when the kids know there is no consequence to misbehavior.” As any teacher knows, it’s not a student’s race that gets them in trouble, rather it’s their misbehavior.

Now a study of the policy’s impact on the state of Wisconsin has recently been released. The study reveals that overall school suspension rates have declined, but the highest percentage of suspension rate decline by race was, interestingly, among white children. The study also found that the factors of poverty and disability had the greatest impact on suspension rates, not racial background.

Will Flanders, the study’s author, stated, “I think what we see is that the factors that are impacting suspension rates differ at the district level. We see some districts where maybe there is a racial factor. We see other districts where poverty and disability seem to be the driver.” Flanders argued that the Obama-era policy should be rescinded, saying, “We really shouldn’t be instituting a national policy that we need to be focused on disparate impact, that we should be reducing suspension. What instead we should do is encourage the ‘dear colleague’ [Obama policy] letter to be reversed, and to restore to the school districts themselves, and to the states, the power in determining what policies work best for their school district.” Imagine that.


What These 2 Ohio Lawmakers Are Doing to Kill Colleges’ Censorship

The storm of censorship on college campuses continues to swirl around the country.

In just the past two weeks, students in Texas sought to shout down an invited speaker, and Oregon students silenced their own college president.

But on college campuses and in state legislatures, defenders of free speech are pushing back. With some adjustment, a new proposal in Ohio looks promising.

Last week, Ohio lawmakers assigned a bill to committee to help preserve free speech on Ohio’s public college campuses. Sponsored by state Reps. Wesley Goodman, R-Cardington, and Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, the proposal prohibits state-funded schools from disinviting campus lecturers based on the content of their expression.

The proposal maintains that public colleges and universities must commit themselves to being bastions of free speech:

It is not the proper role of a state institution of higher education to shield individuals from expression protected by the United States … including, without limitation, ideas and opinions that the institution finds unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.

The Goodman-Brenner bill draws on ideas from the Goldwater Institute’s Campus Free Speech Act, which serves as a legislative template for state lawmakers to use in protecting free expression on public college campuses.

The Goldwater model, designed with Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, says that state universities should allow anyone who is lawfully present on a public campus to demonstrate or protest in public areas, like sidewalks and spaces outside of buildings.

It also says colleges should make clear during freshman orientation that they are in favor of free speech and eliminate restrictive speech codes and so-called “free speech zones” on campus.

North Carolina lawmakers passed a law this summer based on the Goldwater model, and two weeks ago, the Wisconsin state university system governing board voted in favor of similar policies.

State representatives in Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Tennessee, and Virginia have considered similar legislation this year.

Recent activity in courts of law demonstrates that the threat to free speech on Ohio college campuses is real. In 2012, a federal court struck down portions of the University of Cincinnati’s speech code, arguing that the school’s restriction of protests to free speech zones violated the First Amendment.

Today, Ohio State University has a restrictive speech code in the form of a “Bias Assessment and Response Team.” This part of the school’s code allows individuals to anonymously accuse others of “bias acts,” which are defined as acts that “contribute to creating an unsafe, negative, or unwelcome environment.”

Campus officials can pursue investigations based on these anonymous tips.

More than 200 colleges and universities across the country have bias response teams. Their activities are both ridiculous and frightening.

Earlier this year, the University of Arizona announced it would pay students for secretly reporting on their peers. (The university later removed the job posting and said it would change the title of the position after media reports criticized the school’s actions.)

The University of Michigan announced a new position to coordinate the school’s bias response team activities, which included “cultural appropriation prevention activities.” That job listing has also since been removed.

The Ohio proposal begins to address restrictive speech codes like this, but it is missing key provisions meant to stop free speech violations. Legislators should include consequences, including suspension and expulsion, for individuals that block others from expressing their ideas.

Such measures date back to at least the 1970s, when a Yale University commission recommended sanctioning students for violating the First Amendment.

The Goldwater model includes language to accomplish this, along with due process protections for those accused of violating someone else’s free speech. It is vital that these provisions be included along with sanctions.

Students who are accused of materially and substantially infringing on other people’s rights to free expression should be informed of the charges against them, given adequate notice of when hearings on their case will be held, and given the ability to find representation.

Free speech is the cornerstone of a free and civilized society. It should not be controversial, especially on college campus.

State lawmakers and university officials should protect all students’ rights to express themselves. They shouldn’t have to wait until the rumblings of censorship are at their door for policymakers to act.


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