The College of William & Mary — September 27, 2017

BLM protesters shout down ACLU speaker

Williamsburg, VA

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, was invited by the College of William & Mary’s student organization AMP (Alma Mater Productions) for a discussion titled “Students and the First Amendment.” However, the event did not proceed as planned. It was interrupted by William & Mary’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter approximately five minutes after Gastañaga’s entrance. She was not able to speak substantively, nor to talk with students individually or answer their questions after the event concluded prematurely.

Key Players

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, an alumna of William & Mary, is executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. In August 2017, the state ACLU sued the City of Charlottesville on behalf of Jason Kessler, an “alt-right” activist, who was denied the use of Emancipation Park on August 12 for an approved demonstration. Gastañaga commented on the lawsuit, saying, “The ACLU of Virginia stands for the right to free expression for all, not just those whose opinions are in the mainstream or with whom the government agrees.”

Williamsburg Black Lives Matter has existed since 2014. The Flat Hat, William & Mary’s student newspaper, quoted BLM activist Beth Haw as saying, “We try to engage [people] in conversation about why black lives matter.” Information on the college chapter’s current leadership is not publicly available, and the group is not a recognized student organization on William & Mary’s campus, according to the official student organization directory, but instead works alongside the Williamsburg community’s BLM group.

The AMP is the “primary campus-wide programming body at the College of William & Mary,” according to the college’s website. It falls under the Office of Student Leadership Development. AMP’s mission statement says that its goal is “to provide diverse, high-quality entertainment in a safe, inclusive environment at a low cost to the college community.”

Further Details

As Gastañaga began to speak, BLM protesters occupied the stage while chanting and holding signs. According to, they shouted, “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too” and “the oppressed are not impressed,” among other things. They were angry because the ACLU had declared its intent to protect the free speech rights of Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists earlier that year, and again after the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — just a month before Gastañaga’s planned speech at William & Mary. At the march in Charlottesville, hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, and others gathered to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, previously known as Lee Park. Counter-protesters were present as well, and the conflict ultimately led to the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, and the injury of some 30 others.

At one point during the William & Mary event, an organizer gave a microphone to the protesters so they could read their prepared statement aloud. It addressed the BLM chapter’s concerns regarding when “free speech of the oppressed” would be protected. The protesters then continued chanting, until the hosts eventually decided to cancel the remainder of the discussion. Following the event, student attendees attempted to ask Gastañaga questions individually, but the protesters followed, encircling them and chanting, until the students left with their questions unanswered.

Gastañaga initially attempted to incorporate the protesters into the discussion, saying, “Good, I like this…I’m going to talk to you about knowing your rights, and protests and demonstrations, which this illustrates very well. Then I’m going to respond to questions from the moderators, and then questions from the audience.” But the protesters continued to chant, and ultimately, the discussion was not able to proceed.

AMP Director Miguel Dayan said the student group, which sponsored the visit by Gastañaga, was “proud of be a part of a politically active community that voices their concerns and fights for their rights,” but wished there had been a multilateral dialogue at this event.


Gastañaga left campus safely; event has not been rescheduled

Following the event, Gastañaga left campus safely and no arrests or violence of any kind were reported. The discussion had been organized five months in advance, and as of February 12, 2018, there were no plans to reschedule it.

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley issued a statement following the aborted event, writing that “Silencing certain voices in order to advance the cause of others is not acceptable in our community…William & Mary must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue.”

External Resources

Rutherford Institute File Suit to Uphold Right of Free Speech for all; Sue City of Charlottesville for Making Permit Decisions Based on Content of Speech, ACLU-VA

Alma Mater Productions

Programming and Events, the College of William and Mary

BLM Educates for Change: Black Lives Matter Conference Addresses College’s History, The Flat Hat

Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU’s Campus Free Speech Event Because ‘Liberalism is White Supremacy,’

Black Lives Matter Protests American Civil Liberties Union, The Flat Hat

The campus anti-free-speech movement: Black Lives Matter protesters shut down ACLU speaker at William & Mary, The Washington Post

Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, site of weekend’s violence, to be redesigned,

William and Mary students protest ACLU speaker, white supremacy, The Virginia Gazette

Prepared by Emma Vahey ’20

Uploaded February 13, 2018


University of California, Berkeley – April 2017

Conservative pundit cancels appearance

Berkeley, CA

Ann Coulter cancelled a planned appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, when opposing groups clashed on campus on the day she was planning to speak. The conservative student groups that initially sponsored the event had already pulled their support, due to concern for their members’ safety.

Key Players

Ann Coulter is a conservative political and social commentator, author, and columnist. She has written several books, the most recent of which is titled “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” During the 2016 election, she was an outspoken advocate of Donald Trump’s candidacy. Coulter has gained notoriety for her controversial statements, including her description of the Democratic Party’s “backbone” as a “typical fat, implacable welfare recipient” and her praise of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, who stoked the Red Scare of the 1950s, as “one of the greatest patriots in American history.” Salon reported that in 2015 Coulter was not invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference, marking the first time in 17 years she would not appear at the event.

Further Details

The Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) invited Coulter to speak on campus on April 27, 2017. The invitation came shortly after a scheduled appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley in February had been cancelled because of violent protests.

University administrators decided to cancel Coulter’s planned visit “on the grounds that specific threats by anarchist groups threatened security on campus,” reported The New York Times. They reversed their decision a day later, offering to push the event back to May 2 in order to give the campus time to arrange for adequate security.

Berkeley’s new plan changed Coulter’s event from the nighttime to the daytime, and moved the venue to a building far from the center of campus. The new date also fell during a study week before final exams, when no students would be in class. The two conservative groups who had invited Coulter rejected Berkeley’s proposed change of date and venue, and filed a federal lawsuit against the university. In the suit, they accused Berkeley of attempting “to restrict conservative speech,” reported The Washington Post. The lawsuit demanded that the College Republicans be permitted to invite whomever they wanted to campus to speak, and argued that the two groups were entitled to “monetary damages arising from the unconstitutional actions” of the administration.

Coulter remained determined to appear at Berkeley on April 27, despite the university’s decision to cancel the event. Since Berkeley had not sanctioned the use of a building on that date, the College Republicans discussed the possibility of having Coulter speak in a public plaza where security would have been difficult.

As the date approached, anarchist, antifascist, and conservative militia groups all announced plans to converge on campus for Coulter’s appearance, reported the Post. But two days before it was to occur, the YAF said it was pulling its support for the event. The organization said it was unwilling to “jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,” and blamed Berkeley for making it “impossible to hold a lecture due to the lack of assurances for protections from foreseeable violence from unrestrained leftist agitators.” The College Republicans also withdrew their support.

On April 27, large groups of demonstrators gathered on Berkeley’s campus, some in riot gear. Both campus and local police arrived at the scene, guarding against a repeat of the violence that had broken out because of Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned appearance earlier in the year. Police arrested visitors on various charges, including illegal possession of a weapon and obstructing a police officer, but there was no violence between the two sides. Lines of police kept them separated as they yelled back and forth.


Coulter does not appear at UC Berkeley

Coulter travelled to San Francisco on April 27, 2017. In an email to the Associated Press, she said she was considering visiting the rally, but she was not going to speak. “I thought I might stroll around the graveyard of the First Amendment,” she wrote. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) both criticized the protesters and said Coulter should have been permitted to speak.

Though Coulter did not end up coming across the Bay to Berkeley at the time, she did speak to a group of Republicans in Modesto, CA, at an event that drew protests outside, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Justice Department announces support for lawsuit

In October 2017, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit that the YAF and the Berkeley College Republicans had filed against the university for moving the location and date of Coulter’s appearance. The two organizations then amended the suit to include complaints about an incident involving protests at an appearance by Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator and editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire, at UC Berkeley that had occurred in September. The organizations resubmitted the lawsuit in November.

On January 25, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was supporting the revised lawsuit, reported The Daily Californian. The DOJ’s statement of interest said the “[p]laintiffs’ amended complaint adequately pleads that the University’s speech restrictions violate the First Amendment, and therefore, at least to that extent, the Court should deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss.” The YAF issued a press release welcoming the DOJ’s support and alleging that Berkeley’s administrators “routinely violate the First Amendment freedoms of conservative students.”

External References

Ann Coulter speech at UC Berkeley canceled, again, amid fears for safety, The Washington Post

Ann Coulter, free speech, and UC Berkeley: How a talk became a political bombshell, Los Angeles Times

Conservative Groups Sue Berkeley Over Ann Coulter Cancellation, The New York Times

Ann Coulter Says She Will Pull Out of Speech at Berkeley, The New York Times

Ann Coulter has fallen from grace — and the reason why is terrifying,

Statement on Young America’s Foundation’s April 27 Lecture at UC-Berkeley

Berkeley College Republicans, Young America’s Foundation lawsuit against UC Berkeley dismissed, The Daily Californian

There was no Ann Coulter speech. But protesters converged on Berkeley. The Washington Post

Ann Coulter’s Berkeley speech was canceled, but protesters showed up in riot gear anyway, Vice

Hundreds rally at Berkeley to protest Ann Coulter’s canceled appearance, The Hollywood Reporter

US Justice Department backs conservative UC Berkeley students in free speech suit, The Daily Californian

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded February 8, 2018

University of Delaware – June 2017

After controversial Facebook post, university declines to rehire adjunct anthropologist

Newark, DE

The University of Delaware (UD) announced it would not rehire Katherine Dettwyler, an adjunct professor who said on her personal Facebook page that Otto Warmbier “got what he deserved.” Warmbier was a college student from Ohio who died on June 19, 2017, after he had been arrested and held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months.

Key Players

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was on his way to study abroad in Hong Kong when he decided to travel to North Korea with a tour group. During his stay in the country, he allegedly took a propaganda poster from a restricted area in his hotel. Warmbier was taken into custody at the airport before he could board a plane to leave the country. In March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing the poster. On June 13, 2017, Warmbier was returned home to Cincinnati in a coma, which he reportedly fell into shortly after his sentencing. He was suffering from botulism, and died six days after his return to the United States.

Katherine Dettwyler is a former adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s anthropology department. Two days after Warmbier’s death, Dettwyler made a Facebook post in which she wrote that Warmbier was a “clueless white male” who “got exactly what he deserved.” The university released a statement condemning her post, and within days, on June 25, 2017, announced that she would not be rehired for the following academic year.

Further Details

After Warmbier died, Dettwyler wrote on Facebook that his parents were ultimately to blame for his death because he grew up thinking “he could get away with anything he wanted.” “Maybe in the US,” the post continued, “where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea.” Though she deleted the post soon afterward, Dettwyler said she had received death threats for her comments, reported Reuters.

Around the same time, Dettwyler made similar comments on a National Review article, reports The Washington Post. She wrote that she loved her “hard-working, sincere, non-arrogant college students,” but that other students “think nothing of raping drunk girls at frat parties and snorting cocaine, cheating on exams, and threatening professors with physical violence.”


University of Delaware announces it will not rehire Dettwyler after controversial comments

UD announced that it would not rehire adjunct professor Katherine Dettwyler. She was not employed by UD when she made the comments concerning Warmbier, since her contract for the Spring semester had recently ended.

External References

UD issues statement

University of Delaware cuts ties with professor who said Warmbier ‘deserved’ to die, USA Today

Delaware school cuts professor over post on North Korea captive, Reuters

Otto Warmbier: American student freed by North Korea is ‘in a coma,’ The Independent

Professor fired after saying Otto Warmbier was a ‘clueless white male’ who ‘got what he deserved,’ The Independent

Professor who said ‘clueless white male’ Otto Warmbier got ‘what he deserved’ won’t be rehired, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded January 29, 2018

Fordham University – December 2016 – January 2018

Students rebuffed in effort to establish pro-Palestinian club

Bronx, NY

Administration officials denied an application from students at Fordham University to form a university-recognized chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), citing the potential for controversy. The university is also alleged to have retaliated against students who protested the decision.

Key Players

Keith Eldredge is Fordham University’s dean of students. Eldredge denied an application from students seeking to form a university-recognized chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Ahmad Awad, Sofia Dadap, Sapphira Lurie, and Julie Norris are Fordham students who sued Fordham University for denying their application to form an SJP chapter on campus.

Further Details

On December 22, 2016, Dean of Students Keith Eldredge denied an application from students who sought to form a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University. Eldredge claimed the group’s anti-Israel political stances conflicted with Fordham’s “mission and values.” In an email announcing the decision, he wrote, “While students are encouraged to promote diverse political points of view, and we encourage conversation and debate on all topics, I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the university,” reported Inside Higher Ed (IHE). He added that the Israel-Palestine issue “often leads to polarization rather than dialogue.”

Two civil rights and legal advocacy organizations, Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, included Eldredge’s email in an 11-page joint letter to Fordham’s president, Reverend Joseph McShane, according to IHE. The letter noted that four Fordham students—three who identify as Muslim and one Palestinian-American—first petitioned Fordham to create a campus chapter of SJP in November 2015, using a pro forma process that is normally resolved within weeks. “All evidence indicates that the denial,” which came more than a year later, “was based on the viewpoint of students’ message and/or their national origin,” the letter argued. “The denial violates free speech and association principles, the university’s commitment to protect free inquiry, and could give rise to a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” a statute that bars discrimination based on race, color, or nation of origin.

Fordham spokesman Bob Howe responded to the letter with a statement that said, in part, “Fordham has no registered student clubs the sole focus of which is the political agenda of one nation, against another nation. For the university’s purposes, the country of origin of the student organizers is irrelevant, as is their particular political stance. The narrowness of Students for Justice in Palestine’s political focus makes it more akin to a lobbying group than a student club. Regardless of the club’s status, students, faculty and staff are of course free to voice their opinions on Palestine, or any other issue.”

After students organized a peaceful rally in January 2017 to protest Fordham’s decision, Eldredge notified Sapphira Lurie, a senior he had appointed as the liaison for the rally, that she had violated the school’s demonstration policy. He said the group had not received written approval for the gathering, but according to Lurie, no one had ever indicated to her that the rally was unsanctioned. Eldredge summoned her to a “hearing” in his office, but denied her request to have a third party present. Lurie left in protest when he also dismissed her request to keep the door open during the session, reported Palestine Legal. The students interpreted his actions as retaliation for their persistence in attempting to establish an SJP chapter at Fordham.


Lawsuit filed against Fordham University, litigation ongoing

On April 26, 2017, Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against Fordham on behalf of four students—Ahmad Awad, Sofia Dadap, Sapphira Lurie, and Julie Norris—as a special proceeding under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, according to Palestine Legal. The lawsuit alleged that the students had been unlawfully blocked from creating an SJP chapter on campus and stonewalled by Fordham administration officials, including Eldredge and Dorothy Wenzel, the school’s director of the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development. On June 5, 2017, Fordham filed a motion to dismiss the suit. A month later, the students filed a reply to Fordham’s motion to dismiss, alleging that the university had acted “arbitrarily, capriciously, and in bad faith,” as well as violated its own free speech policy, according to Palestine Legal. On January 3, 2018, the students’ case was heard at the Manhattan Civil Courthouse in New York. According to The Intercept, Fordham’s lawyers argued that the First Amendment does not apply at the university, because it is a private institution. As of January 18, 2018, no decision had been reached by the court. At least one of the four plaintiffs, Ahmad Awad, is now a graduate of the university.

External References

Pro-Palestinian Group Banned on Political Grounds, Inside Higher Ed

Fordham University blocked students from forming pro-Palestinian group: suit, New York Daily News

Fordham Bans Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Legal

Fordham University’s Suppression of Pro-Palestinian Views Shows Why Liberals Should Fight for Free Speech, New York Magazine

Pro-Palestinian club sues Fordham, NY Post

Students await judgment in suit, The Intercept

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

Uploaded on January 18, 2018

Parkway High School – September 28, 2017

High school prohibits students from demonstrating during national anthem

Bossier Parish, LA

Parkway High School, one of 34 public secondary schools in the Bossier Parish school district in northwest Louisiana, implemented a policy whereby students may be punished with reduced playing time, suspension, or removal from sports teams if they demonstrate during the national anthem. The school principal, Waylon Bates, wrote a letter to parents and student athletes, in which he referred to protests as disruptions and asserted that participants must stand in a respectful manner at such moments. Scott Smith, superintendent of the Bossier Parish schools, has also publicly stated that students in his district are expected to stand for the national anthem. The policy changes are a reaction to the fact that many coaches and players in the National Football League (NFL) have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the United States, especially since Donald Trump became president.

Key Players

Parkway High School Principal Waylon Bates sent a letter home to parents and athletes, informing them of the school’s new policy regarding extracurricular activities.

Scott Smith is the Bossier Parish schools superintendent who insists that all student athletes stand respectfully during the national anthem at sporting events.

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana, cited the constitutional rights of the students in her reaction to the prospect of their punishment.

Further Details

Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, ignited what is now a well-known and widespread movement of protesting racial injustice in America during the singing of the national anthem at sporting events. Kaepernick kneeled or sat during the Star-Spangled Banner before most games in the 2016 NFL season, but the trend attracted major media attention in the 2017 season, when more players and some coaches began joining him in solidarity. President Trump expressed his intense anger over what he deemed “total disrespect of our heritage…for everything we stand for” at a political rally in the South.

The NFL protests sparked both widespread support and staunch condemnation from people around the country, and eventually entered the realm of high school sports. Schools on Long Island and in New Jersey threatened serious disciplinary action for those who kneeled during the national anthem. Louisiana is one place where the reaction was particularly severe. Principal Waylon Bates, of Parkway High School, wrote to inform families of athletes of the school’s expectations. His letter said:

“The LHSAA (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) allows school principals to make decisions regarding student participation in the National Anthem while competing in athletic contests and games. Parkway High School requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner throughout the National Anthem during any sporting event in which their team is participating. Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal. Continued failure to comply will result in removal from the team. Parkway High School is committed to creating a positive environment for sporting events that is free of disruption to the athletic contest or game.”

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, has challenged this policy, citing the First Amendment rights of the protest peacefully.


The Rules Remain in Place

Despite condemnation and warnings from the ACLU in Louisiana, the rules against protests by athletes during the national anthem remain in place in the Bossier Parish schools in Louisiana.

External References

Louisiana Schools Threaten to Punish Students for Kneeling, NYPost

High Schools Threaten to Punish Students Who Kneel During Anthem, The New York Times

Louisiana High School Will Kick Students Off Team if They Don’t Stand, The Washington Post

Louisiana School District to Student Athletes, Fox News

Trump: NFL Owners Should Fire Players, CNN Politics

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded January 15, 2018

New York University – February 2, 2017

Protesters use pepper spray to prevent conservative actor from speaking on campus

New York, NY

Conservative actor and comedian Gavin McInnes was forced to cut a seminar short when student protesters interrupted his lecture. The demonstrators used pepper spray on McInnes as he was entering the event.

Key Players

Canadian Gavin McInnes is a conservative comedian, actor, and co-founder of Vice Media. He cut ties with Vice in 2008. In 2016, he founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that he refers to as a “pro-Western fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” McInnes, a self-described “western chauvinist,” has used racial slurs in his writings and argues that women earn less than men because they are less ambitious. He has appeared on Fox News and The Blaze.

Further Details

Gavin McInnes was invited by the NYU College Republicans to give an on-campus speech on February 2, 2017. Elena Hatib, president of the student group, told the NYU Local, “Even though I don’t personally agree with everything he says, I think he brings up interesting conversation topics, especially for NYU and the current campus culture.”

Before the event, members of a student group called NYU Anti-Fascists, which said McInnes “has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy,” gathered along with non-student demonstrators outside NYU’s Kimmel Center, the New York Post reported.

Upon McInnes’ arrival at the facility, pushing and shoving broke out among the assembled protesters, according to video footage of the incident later posted to social media. It was unclear who started the fight. Protesters chanted “Nazi scum, your time has come” as he approached the center, with some demonstrators carrying signs or lighting “Make America Great Again” hats on fire, according to the Post. During the uproar, McInnes was attacked with pepper spray. He was treated by emergency responders in the bathroom of the Kimmel Center while security and university officials guarded the door, The Washington Times reported.

McInnes attempted to deliver his scheduled speech, but was interrupted after only a few minutes. About twenty minutes into his presentation, protesters began to enter the room, shouting over him. McInnes claimed to be “relieved” that those who tried to keep him from speaking “were not Muslim,” and later called an NYU spokesman “a dumb liberal asshole.” He was escorted out of the room.


Some protesters arrested, speaker ends speech early, departs campus

Eleven individuals were arrested on charges “including criminal mischief, drug possession, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration,” reported the New York Daily News. None of them were NYU students. After McInnes left the Kimmel Center event, he tweeted, “Thanks for asking if I’m OK guys. I was sprayed with pepper spray but being called a Nazi burned way more,” accompanied by a yellow crying-face emoji. President Donald Trump also appeared to weigh in on the incident via Twitter, writing the next day that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

External References

11 Arrested at NYU Protest Against Conservative Firebrand Gavin McInnes, DNA Info

Violent Protests Break Out on NYU Campus Over Gavin McInnes Seminar, Fox News

Protesters storm NYU over conservative speaker’s seminar, The New York Post

Conservative speaker Gavin McInnes pepper-sprayed by NYU protesters, The Washington Times

6 conservatives sparking free speech debates on campuses, USA Today

Conservative Speaker’s Appearance Ignites Protests at NYU, NBC New York

Trump Supporters at the DeploraBall, The New Yorker

Eleven arrested during protest against conservative comedian at NYU, Reuters

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

Uploaded January 15, 2018

Texas A&M University – December 6, 2016

University changes speaker policy after Richard Spencer visits

College Station, TX

Following student protests of an on-campus speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer, who was invited by Preston Wiginton, a non-student local resident, Texas A&M University changed its policy to require that future speakers have on-campus sponsorship by a recognized organization to reserve a building. In September 2017, Wiginton was allowed to reserve an outdoor space on campus for a different white nationalist rally, though the university ultimately cancelled it.

Key Players

Richard Spencer is president and director of the National Policy Institute, which is dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website. In November 2016, Spencer addressed a National Policy Institute convention and shouted “Hail Trump!” in a manner that provoked members of his audience to give a Nazi-like salute. In January 2017, Spencer would be punched in the face by a masked assailant during Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Also, his membership was revoked at a gym in Alexandria, VA, due to his political beliefs.

Preston Wiginton is a white nationalist who invited Spencer to Texas A&M in December 2016 and organized a “White Lives Matter” rally to take place on campus on September 11, 2017. Wiginton said that there was no significance to scheduling the rally on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. When university officials announced their decision to cancel the event, Wiginton told The Texas Tribune he was considering an unauthorized march through the campus instead, but the event never took place.

Further Details

On December 6, 2016, approximately 400 people gathered inside Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center to watch a speech by Richard Spencer, CNN reported. He had been invited to speak at the campus by Preston Wiginton, a Texas A&M alumnus who communicated with the alt-right leader online and has invited other controversial speakers to the College Station, Texas, campus in the past, according to The Texas Tribune. Taking advantage of the university’s public status, Wiginton, who is not officially affiliated with the university, paid to reserve the on-campus space for Spencer’s appearance.

Spencer was met with jeers at the event. Some students held protest signs, CNN reported, including one that displayed an image of Adolf Hitler’s face with a gun to his head and read “Follow your leader.” Law enforcement officers with riot shields expelled protesters from inside the hall where Spencer was speaking, and the university’s police department arrested two non-student attendees on unknown charges.

Texas A&M Senior Vice President Amy Smith said the school “finds [Spencer’s] views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values.” The university sponsored a counter-event during his speech called “Aggies United”, featuring actor Hill Harper, journalist Roland Martin, and Holocaust survivor Max Glauben, among others.

Wiginton reserved space on the campus once more, in 2017. He planned to bring Spencer back to Texas A&M on September 11 as part of a white nationalist rally. He reserved a “free speech area” on a central plaza for the event, since the university’s new speaker policy prevented him from reserving a building without the sponsorship of a student group. WIginton said he chose the university for the rally because he wanted to address future generations of Americans.

A&M administrators made the decision to cancel the event after Wiginton compared it to the march in Charlottesville, reported the Tribune. In a press release advertising the event, Wiginton wrote, “CHARLOTTESVILLE TODAY TEXAS A&M TOMORROW,” which administrators pointed to as motivation for cancelling the event. There was concern over student, faculty, staff, and public safety.

Texas legislators had also put pressure on the university to cancel the event. State Rep. Helen Giddings, a Democrat, gave a speech on the House floor urging the university to “denounce and fight against this violent group,” and State Rep. Paul Workman, a Republican, circulated a petition calling for the event not to happen, reported NPR. The state senate expressed similar sentiments.


Event proceeded as planned, university changed speech policy

Richard Spencer was able to speak on campus in December 2016, despite student protests and opposition by university administration. On March 21, 2017, however, Texas A&M announced it was altering its speaker invitation policy to require that all future non-faculty speakers have on-campus sponsorship by a recognized organization before they rent space there. The new policy also requires that an external speaker’s sponsors attend the event and assume responsibility for any damage to university property or unpaid fees owed by the speaker. According to Vice President Smith, “university officials are concerned about fringe and hate groups descending on campuses for the purpose of disruption,” reported CNN. “As one of the stewards for protecting and enhancing the brand, this is particularly troubling to me as the influx of these outside groups may connote…an environment of acceptance by our campus when none are actually our students or faculty.”

Texas A&M cancels event, Wiginton files complaint with ACLU and considers legal action

The university allowed Wiginton to reserve an outdoor space on campus for a white nationalist rally planned for September 11, 2017, but ultimately cancelled his reservation due to concerns about public and student safety. He filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union and was reportedly consulting with private attorneys and considering legal action against the university.

External References

Richard Spencer’s appearance at Texas A&M draws protests, CNN

“Strongest Skinhead” is behind white nationalist’s speech at Texas A&M, The Texas Tribune

Hundreds Protest Speech by White Nationalist Richard Spencer at Texas A&M, NBC News

Texas A&M University changes campus speaker policy over Richard Spencer visit, CNN

Texas A&M limits guest speakers after Richard Spencer visit put ‘undue burden’ on school, official says, Dallas News

White nationalist says he might still march through Texas A&M campus, The Texas Tribune

White nationalist rally at Texas A&M University has been cancelled, The Texas Tribune

Wiginton plans second alt-right rally at Texas A&M on Sept. 11, The Eagle

At A&M, protests, big crowds and tension over white nationalist’s speech, The Texas Tribune

Texas A&M cancels white nationalist rally set for 9/11, CNN

Texas A&M cancels Sept. 11 ‘White Lives Matter’ rally over safety concerns, NPR

Texas A&M could face legal action for canceling a white nationalist rally, Texas Monthly

Organizer of cancelled white nationalist protest at Texas A&M takes legal action, Houston Heights Patch

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17 and Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded January 15, 2018

Updated January 22, 2018

Reed College – 2016-2017

Student group protests humanities class, demands hiring of minority professors

Portland, OR

Reedies Against Racism (RAR), a student group at Reed College, has staged numerous protests in an effort to promote racial justice and inclusion on campus. The protests began in September 2016, focusing especially on Humanities 110, a mandatory classics course for freshmen. The group has also criticized the college’s relationship with Wells Fargo, a financial services firm that they claim has ties to the private prison industry.

Key Players

Reed College President John R. Kroger, former attorney general of Oregon, has sought to address the concerns of RAR while criticizing the student group’s protest tactics. Though he commended a review of Hum 110’s syllabus, he asked students to “refrain from any further disruption in the classroom” and discouraged “ad hominem attacks against faculty members for teaching ancient Mediterranean texts…” When students staged a “peaceful sit-in outside [his] office,” Kroger wrote in a letter to students and faculty that he had “no objection” to it. He continued, “The meeting area outside my office is a place of symbolic power, and thus a reasonable place to express one’s political views.” However, he condemned “tactics that prevent the college from operating or subject our faculty, staff, and students to inappropriate or intimidating conduct.”

Lucía Martínez Valdivia is an assistant professor at Reed. She has urged students to refrain from protesting Hum 110 and instead “say yes to the text.” When student protests caused her Hum 110 lecture to be cancelled in September 2017, Reed Magazine published her planned remarks. Within her prepared lecture, she argued that students “should read things in good faith, understanding the distance, the strangeness from our own historical moment. If we get distracted by Plato’s misogyny or Lucretius’ imperfect mastery of physics, we miss the point, the bigger pictures of these works — the way Plato structures his arguments, for example, or the fact that Lucretius was driven to theorize about the nature of the physical world when that just wasn’t something people did.”

Further Details

In September 2016, students at Reed formed RAR, an organization dedicated to creating a more welcoming and just campus environment. Initially inspired by actor Isaiah Washington’s call to protest police violence against African Americans by staying home on September 26, 2016, RAR organized a boycott of all classes on that day. Concurrently, the group issued 25 demands, reported The Atlantic. They ranged from “[t]ransparency and long-term reform regarding Reed’s… investment in companies… that profit from the incarceration of black and brown people” to “the hiring of more tenure-track black faculty.”

One of RAR’s demands took aim at a humanities course called Hum 110. This course is the “foundation of the Reed College curriculum,” according to professor Peter Steinberger. In an article for Reed Magazine, he explained that Hum 110 is “an intensive, year-long course required of all first-year students,” meant to engage students in “the study of archaic and classical Greece, focusing on Homer, Hesiod, the lyric poets, the plastic arts (including vase painting, sculpture and architecture), Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle.”

In its list of demands, RAR called for Hum 110 to be “reformed to represent the voices of people of color… There should be an articulated understanding that ‘foundational texts’ are subjective and that the importance of the course is to foster student’s (sic) abilities to read, write, and listen/respond. Before this is accomplished, Hum 110 should be conscious of the power it gives to already privileged ideas and welcome critique of that use of power.” Specifically, RAR urged administrators to alter the mandatory nature of the course until reforms in the syllabus are made.

Hum 110, which has been taught at Reed since 1943, undergoes a curriculum review every 10 years, reported Inside Higher Ed. However, Reed faculty responded to RAR’s demands by agreeing to review the course ahead of the normal schedule. The special review began in September 2016. Reed faculty also agreed to conduct a series of meetings between Hum 110 professors and RAR-affiliated students. These meetings “ended when RAR members stopped coming,” according to The Atlantic. Some RAR students complained via Facebook of being “forced to sit in hours of fruitless meetings listening to full-grown adults cry about Aristotle.”

RAR-affiliated students regularly protested Hum 110 courses throughout the 2016-2017 school year. The protests usually entailed “RAR supporters position[ing] themselves alongside the professor and quietly hold[ing] signs reading ‘We demand space for students of color,’ ‘We cannot be erased,’ ‘Fuck Hum 110,’ ‘Stop silencing black and brown voices; the rest of society is already standing on their necks,’ and so on. The signs are often accompanied by photos of black Americans killed by police,” reported The Atlantic. In August 2017, RAR announced that students would continue to protest Hum 110 lectures and requested that protesters be provided class time to introduce themselves, reported Inside Higher Ed. Faculty leaders denied this request and cancelled the first Hum 110 lecture of the year when protesters disrupted it.

Many professors permitted the protests, adhering to a “general understanding… that the protesters would be allowed to continue as long as they didn’t interfere in the lecture period,” according to Inside Higher Ed. Others were less tolerant of the disruption. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, a professor of religion and humanities at Reed, declined to lecture while students held signs denouncing the course. He explained to Inside Higher Ed that this was “a personal decision for me. I felt I owed my colleagues and students in the course an explanation and shared my reasoning with them, but I never intended it to go further than that.” Lucia Martínez Valdivia, an assistant professor at Reed, says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In November 2016, she asked students not to protest during her class, doubting “her ability to deliver the lecture in the face of their opposition,” The Economist reported. “At first, demonstrators announced they would change tactics and sit quietly in the audience, wearing black. After her speech, a number of them berated her, bringing her to tears.” In October 2017, Valdivia authored an article for The Washington Post in which she claimed that “the right to speak freely is not the same as the right to rob others of their voices.” She noted that student protesters had silenced many of her colleagues and contended that “university life — along with civic life — dies without the free exchange of ideas.”

Some students, particularly freshmen, have been critical of RAR’s in-class disruptions. One student, “a low-income, first-generation American person of color,” anonymously wrote in a student magazine, “I want to be able to go to Hum lecture without having people holding pictures of dead children in my face.” In one telling incident, recounted by The Atlantic, RAR protesters disrupted Professor Ann Delehanty’s lecture on The Iliad with a “noise parade.” When Delehanty left the room to deliver her lecture in a different classroom, many students followed her instead of listening to a RAR demonstrator discuss Reed’s investment portfolio.

RAR’s protests extended beyond Hum 110 lectures. In October 2017, students affiliated with RAR staged a sit-in in President Kroger’s office in Eliot Hall. According to Kroger, the students demanded “that Reed terminate its relationship with Wells Fargo bank because of the bank’s alleged ties to the private prison industry, the Keystone natural gas pipeline, and, in the words of the student petition, ‘Israeli occupation crimes.’” When the protest spread to the treasurer’s office, also located in Eliot Hall, some students were issued a no-contact order following a confrontation with a staff member. While students who violated the order risked being referred to local police, they were still permitted to camp out in Kroger’s office, according to Oregon Live.

The sit-in, which lasted many weeks, eventually spread to the admissions office, too. There, students responded to vandalism that was discovered in the bathrooms of the college’s library. The vandalism advanced white supremacy and Nazi ideology, prompting RAR to make four demands related to inclusion on campus. They included “mak[ing] Reed a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants” and “edit[ing] the school’s missions statement so that it is anti-racist.”

On December 19, 2017, Reed’s Investment Committee declined to divest from Wells Fargo. The committee announced in a statement, “We have carefully considered the students’ request and have concluded that divestment for these reasons would violate the college’s Operating Principles and Investment Responsibility Policy, which are based on a deep commitment to academic freedom.”


Student protest inside administrative building ends

On December 20, 2017, RAR announced via Facebook that the protest inside Eliot Hall had ended. The sit-in lasted many weeks, with students camping out in the offices of the president, the treasurer, and admissions.

Revision of the Hum 110 Syllabus is Likely

On September 13, 2017, a group of professors who teach Hum 110 proposed a revised syllabus that organizes the course “around four separate but related themes,” according to the chair of Hum 110. Another proposal involves adding “4th century North Africa and the rise of Islam” to the syllabus. As of October 2017, both proposals were under consideration by faculty.

President Kroger steps down

In February 2018, Kroger announced he would step down in the summer of 2018 after serving six years as president of Reed. In a statement announcing his decision, he cited “build[ing] a more diverse, healthy, and inclusive community” as one of his administration’s top priorities during his tenure as president.

External References

Reedies Against Racism’s Demands

The Surprising Revolt at the Most Liberal College in the Country, The Atlantic

Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses, The Washington Post

What Hum 110 Is All About, Reed Magazine

Occupation of Hum 110, Inside Higher Ed

Reed students have been camped out in the president’s office for 9 days, Oregon Live

A Message from President Kroger – Wells Fargo Protests

President’s Statement on Campus Protests

Update on Hum 110 Course Review, Reed Magazine

Investment Committee Issues Statement on Wells Fargo, Reed Magazine

Hum 110: The Lost Lecture, Reed Magazine

Arguments over free speech on campus are not left v right, The Economist

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded on January 15, 2018

Updated on February 12, 2018

University of Wyoming – June 15, 2017

Furore over “The Fantasticks”

Laramie, WY

Native American high school students, participants in a summer institute at the University of Wyoming (UW), walked out of a performance of “The Fantasticks” in protest. The students took offense at the villainization of Native American characters in one scene and at what they perceived as an overly casual use of the word “rape” in a portion of dialogue. After they walked out, the UW United Multicultural Council (UMC) complained, and the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance made edits to their rendition of the play.

Key Players

Tim Nichols, husband of UW President Laurie Nichols, was essential in setting up UW’s Native American Summer Institute. He attended the play the night of the walkout, and afterward said that while he recognized the play was a period piece written in the 1960s, and therefore included some derogatory attitudes typical of the time, its performance was nonetheless inappropriate today. However, Nichols said that he believed the play did not entirely undo the progress the institute had made.

UMC Co-President Tyler Wolfgang authored the group’s statement regarding the performance, complaining that the production perpetuated outdated and offensive stereotypes of Native Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.

Further Details

After the walkout, actors in the UW production worked to re-tool offensive moments in the play. The Department of Theatre and Dance included an insert in the program for future performances explaining the cultural context in which the show had been written and preparing audience members for certain awkward moments. The department also issued a statement published in The Laramie Boomerang, explaining that the use of Native Americans as stock caricature villains is unacceptable, but reflects attitudes prevalent in the 1960s when “The Fantasticks” was first performed. The statement goes on to address the play’s use of the word “rape,” clarifying that its use in a particular song title actually corresponds with an outdated definition that referred to an abduction; furthermore, it said, the line that mentions the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is an allusion to an incident from Roman mythology. On the whole, the statement acknowledged that the department had failed to prepare audiences for what they were going to watch.

The walkout also inspired editorials and opinion pieces in Wyoming newspapers. In The Casper Star Tribune, professional playwright James Olm wrote that the incident opened his eyes to his own “whitewashed perspective” of theatre. He did, however, also express his disappointment at the university’s decision to cancel the production’s four-stop tour through the state. Bob Bonnar, editor of the News Letter Journal, wrote that the university’s response to the walkout silenced art in the name of diversity.

The incident prompted strong responses from community members on social media. Some said they understood the department’s decision to amend the play, but that a preemptive explanation of the context in which the show was written should have been the first strategy employed. Others were angry at the students’ decision to walk out of the performance, saying that their actions clearly belied a lack of willingness to understand the show.


“The Fantasticks” edited, tour dates cancelled

After Native American students walked out of the play, production staff worked to amend certain portions of it so future audiences would find it less offensive. The university cancelled the production’s tour dates in other parts of the state.

External References

‘Fantasticks’ scene prompts walkout, incites condemnation, The Laramie Boomerang

Olm: Fantastickssaga opened my eyes, Casper Star Tribune

Show silenced by diversity, News Letter Journal

UW Department of Theatre and Dance statement on the production, The Laramie Boomerang

Prepared by Chris Castano ‘16

December 7, 2017

Clemson University – August 2016 – September 2016

Administrators prevent man from praying, students from displaying images of Harambe

Clemson, SC

The Clemson University administration struggled with issues relating to Free Speech on campus during the latter half of 2016. In August, a man praying on Clemson’s campus with a sign urging others to join him was asked to leave the area by a university administrator. His religious expression was interpreted as solicitation, as he was not a Clemson student or faculty member and he was praying with his sign outside of a designated Free Speech zone. The next month, students were banned from displaying images of Harambe, a famous gorilla who had died earlier that year, in their residence hall.

Key Players

Kyra Palange, a graduate student and member of the conservative organization Young Americans for Freedom, joined the visitor in praying for a few moments before university administrators intervened.

Shawn Jones, Clemson’s assistant director for client services, approached the man praying with Palange and informed him that his speech was considered solicitation and was taking place outside of a campus Free Speech zone. He then asked the man to leave.

Further Details

Robby Roberts was praying on a grassy area of Clemson’s campus near Fort Hill around 3:15 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2016. According to the Charlotte Observer, Roberts was sitting in a folding chair with another stationed next to him, along with an 8×10 sign that said “PRAYER”.

Kyra Palange, a graduate student, was walking in that area and decided to join the man in prayer for a few moments. They were approached by Shawn Jones and made to relocate. Jones informed Roberts that in the future he would need to follow the proper procedure in order to be permitted to solicit on campus. Jones also offered Roberts the paperwork to begin the registration process. Palange caught some of the interaction on video. When questioned about the potential encroachment on the man’s First Amendment rights on a public campus, Clemson administrators defended Jones’ actions. Mark Land, a spokesman for the university, told the College Fix that “the community member in this situation was not asked to leave campus nor was his prayer with one of our students interrupted.” Land said that Roberts was simply directed to “an appropriate location, such as one of the university’s designated free speech zones.”

The prayer incident was not Clemson’s only issue with the First Amendment. In September 2016, images of a famous gorilla named Harambe were banned by a community director in a residence hall after a student filed a complaint. According to National Review, Community Director Brooks Artis said, “there have been reports that [Harambe] and the incident surrounding his death have been used to add to the rape culture as well as being a form of racism.” In an effort to avoid discomfort, all references to the gorilla were banned from being displayed in dormitories, reports The Federalist.

Since any part of a student’s room is considered his or her private space, including the exterior of the door, the Harambe ban was subject to intense criticism. After receiving negative media attention, administrators overturned the rule. In addition, the university implemented mandatory First Amendment training for resident advisors so that they understand what they can and cannot regulate in dorms and are aware of what speech is and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. The first training occurred in January 2017.


Protest on campus

WeRoar Clemson, a student group dedicated to supporting Free Speech on campus, organized a protest to criticize the university’s actions toward Roberts and, more broadly, Clemson’s Free Speech policy, which it views as unconstitutional.

First Amendment taught and supported by the administration

After resident advisors seemingly infringed on students’ First Amendment rights, the requirements to become an RA changed. They now include mandatory First Amendment training.

External References

Kate Irby, Charlotte Observer

Pardes Seleh, Daily Wire

Katherine Timpf, National Review

Mitchell Gunter, The College Fix

Prepared by Bridget McElroy 18

December 8, 2017