Cooper Medical School of Rowan University – January 2017

Medical student punished by school for Instagram photos

Camden, NJ

In January 2017, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) censured a student for violating the school’s social media policy, citing two photos the student had posted to her Instagram account before she had matriculated there. One photo showed the woman nude on a topless beach, her nipples blurred in accordance with Instagram’s policy, with “#freethenipple” in the caption. The other photo showed her in a CMSRU lab coat in front of a school backdrop. The student, who has remained anonymous, was required to meet with school officials, who advised her to alter or terminate her social media usage.

Key Players

CMSRU is a public medical school founded in 2012 in Camden, New Jersey, with a student body of approximately 300 students. Its “Social Network Policy” encourages students to be thoughtful when posting on social media, but according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the original policy was not compliant with the First Amendment.

Further Details

According to FIRE, the student was first contacted about her social media usage in July 2016 by CMSRU’s associate dean for diversity and community affairs, Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams, who alerted her to the school’s policy and warned her that “once students matriculate at CMSRU the policy . . . is in effect.” The student responded to Mitchell-Williams’ email to ask for clarification, but said she never received a response.

On January 6, 2017, Marion Lombardi, CMSRU’s chief student affairs officer, and Erin Pukenas, the assistant dean for student affairs, called a meeting with the student and gave her a “Professionalism Intervention Report” regarding a “collage of sexually explicit photos.” The report asserted that she was in violation of the social media policy because of her photos on Instagram. Comments on the photos seemed to suggest she was “condoning sexual promiscuity,” the student affairs representatives said. Lombardi told the student this report could affect her future at the school, as well as her medical career. Pukenas told her that any CMSRU-related posts on the student’s account must be removed.

When Carolyn Bekes, CMSRU’s director of professionalism, met with the student later that month, she assigned her a “punishment” in the form of a PowerPoint presentation on social media and professionalism in medicine. The student completed the presentation in early March 2017.

Bekes, who has worked for Cooper University Hospital since 1977, encouraged the student to curtail or end her usage of social media in order to prevent future violations of CMSRU’s policy. The director of professionalism would not confirm that the presentation would “‘close’ the files in a way that they will never be used against [the student] in the future,” and encouraged her to have another person, preferably someone “more conservative,” review her posts on social media before making them public.

When Pukenas and Lombardi met with the student on January 6, they had reportedly explained that the social media policy was intentionally “kind of broad . . . because [the school] can’t get into every specific.” The deliberate lack of specificity in the initial policy caused FIRE to call it unconstitutional, and “at odds with the most basic principles of First Amendment precedent, which makes clear that broad and vague policies do not comport with the First Amendment.”

On May 9, 2017, FIRE sent a letter to the CMSRU documenting the weaknesses and errors of the school’s “Social Network Policy.” FIRE demanded that the school remove the “Professionalism Intervention Report” from the student’s file and revise the policy immediately.


CMSRU updates Social Network Policy

After receiving FIRE’s letter, CMSRU amended its social media policy. Specifically, CMSRU removed language regarding “potentially offensive language,” “personal photographs of others that may reasonably be interpreted as condoning . . . sexual promiscuity,” and “posting potentially inflammatory or unflattering material on another individual’s website.”

External Resources

Fast Facts, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — May 9, 2017, FIRE

Text of May 9, 2017 Letter, FIRE

Second Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — October 2017, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University: Student Punished Under Unconstitutional Social Media Policy, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University revises social media policy after letter from FIRE

Distinguished Doctors Create Framework for Success in Medicine, Cooper Medical School Blog

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Fordham University – December 7, 2017

Students wearing MAGA hats kicked out of coffee shop

New York, NY

On December 7, 2017, a group of Fordham University students were told to leave an on-campus coffee shop because they were violating its “safe space” policy. The students were wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats. Fordham President Joseph McShane released a statement after the incident asking observers to treat students on both sides of the incident with compassion.

Key Players

Aaron Spring is a junior at Fordham and a member of the university’s chapter of the College Republicans. He was among the students who were kicked out of the coffee shop. When asked if the group had intended to provoke a confrontation, Spring responded, “No, of course not. We were just a couple of friends going to get coffee, have a talk.”

Michael Esposito is a sophomore at Fordham and was also involved in the incident. When a student worker yelled at him “Fascism! Nazis!” for wearing the MAGA hat, he responded, “I do not see fascism, Nazis on this hat. I see America.” He later told the New York Post, “It was humiliating to be called a Nazi in front of so many people I go to school with. It’s almost scary.”

Father Joseph P. McShane, S.J. is president of Fordham University. He took office in 2003.

Further Details

An unidentified student worker at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, located on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, became angry when several students entered the shop wearing pro-Trump MAGA hats. She yelled at them, “Five minutes! Get out! . . . I’m protecting our customers. . . . You are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off, or you have to go.” When Esposito asked her to explain, she shouted, “Fascism! Nazis!” A video of the altercation was posted to Campus Reform’s website.

The coffee shop’s “Safer Space Policy,” which the student worker accused the students of violating, directs guests “not [to] make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences,” and mandates “No racism – No sexism – No homophobia” in the space, reported the Post.

Though Spring told the Post the group was not trying to provoke a confrontation, a member of the Fordham College Republicans told Campus Reform, “We went [to Rodrigue’s] because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop. . . . We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”


Fordham clarifies ‘safe space’ policy, announces investigation

In the wake of the incident, President McShane released a statement to the Fordham community. He clarified that the university itself does not have a safe space policy. Instead, he said Fordham should be a safe space “in the sense that it is and must remain a place where all of the members of the University community are free to share their opinions, and to have those opinions respectfully tested by their peers.” The statement concluded with a plea for commentators and onlookers to approach the incident with compassion, since those involved in this situation are students; first and foremost they are here to learn, and they may make mistakes.”

The statement also declared that Fordham does not exclude any students from its community based on their political views, and said that the university was investigating the incident.

External References

Students wearing MAGA hats booted from ‘safe space’ coffee shop, The New York Post

Campus coffee shop evicts College Republicans from ‘safe space,’ CampusReform

Fordham University investigating after students were kicked out of campus coffee shop because of ‘MAGA’ hats, The Root

Fordham College Republicans kicked out of campus coffee shop because of MAGA hats, Fox News

University President statement on Rodrigue’s Coffee House incident

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

University of Alabama – January 15, 2018

College student expelled, suspended after racist Instagram posts

Tuscaloosa, AL

Freshman Harley Barber was expelled from the University of Alabama (UA) after she posted two self-recorded videos including racial slurs to Instagram on January 15, 2018, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A week later, a Georgia State University student-athlete was suspended from the soccer team for using the same racial slur on Instagram, and chose to withdraw from her school.

Key Players

Harley Barber is a former UA student and Alpha Phi sorority member. She was just beginning her second semester of freshman year at UA when she posted the racist videos. After the expulsion, Barber returned to her hometown of Marlton, New Jersey.

Linda Kahangi, executive director of Alpha Phi International Fraternity (the sorority to which Barber belonged), released a statement that called the content of the videos hateful and offensive. She also confirmed that Barber was no longer a member of Alpha Phi.

Further Details

In the first video, Barber turns off a sink faucet, and says “we do not waste water because of the people in Syria. . . . I love how I act like I love black people, because I fucking hate n——-rs.” She repeats the n-word multiple times, using it to describe the people for whom she is supposedly saving water. In the second video, Barber says that she can say the n-word as much as she wants because she’s from New Jersey and because she’s “in the South now.” Another woman can be heard in the background suggesting that Barber not post the video to social media.

Barber posted the videos on her second, private account, known as a “Finsta,” short for “fake Instagram.” They were made public by a now-suspended Twitter account, and were then circulated on the social media platform, with one video quickly accumulating more than 5,000 views. Drawing even more attention to the videos, UA running back Damien Harris also tweeted about it, citing them as evidence that “racism isn’t dead.”

UA officials investigated and quickly moved to expel Barber from the university. She was also removed from the UA chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. Stuart Bell, president of UA, released a statement following the incident, condemning Barber’s behavior and expressing his “personal disgust and disappointment” at the “racist and disturbing videos” she posted. It read, in part:

“Like many of you, I find the videos highly offensive and deeply hurtful, not only to our students and our entire University community, but to everyone who viewed them. The actions of this student do not represent the larger student body or the values of our University, and she is no longer enrolled here. We hold our students to much higher standards, and we apologize to everyone who has seen the videos and been hurt by this hateful, ignorant and offensive behavior. This is not who we are; it is unacceptable and unwelcome here at UA.”

A week after Barber was expelled from UA, a Georgia State University freshman, Natalia Martinez, was suspended from the soccer team, and ultimately chose to withdraw from the university, after she used a variation of the n-word on her Finsta account.


Student expelled from university and sorority

Barber was expelled from UA and her sorority within days of the videos going public. She told the New York Post that she “did something bad,” and that there is “no excuse” for her behavior. She has returned to New Jersey.

External Resources

Harley Barber mom: I agree with Alabama expulsion over racist Instagram videos,

University of Alabama investigates sorority member’s racist video,

Harley Barber’s mom says daughter is degrading herself, OK with punishment,

Sorority sister speaks out on racist videos that got her booted from college, New York Post

College athlete suspended, leaves school over racist social media post,

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Theological College at The Catholic University of America – September 2017

Jesuit priest disinvited from university due to pro-LGBTQ beliefs

Washington, D.C.

On September 15, 2017, Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at the Catholic University of America (CUA ) in Washington, D.C. He had been asked by the Theological College to deliver a talk called “Encountering Jesus: Meeting the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith” at an Alumni Day event on October 4, 2017. Leaders at the seminary told Martin they rescinded his invitation after receiving a flood of complaints from people objecting to the controversial opinions he had expressed about homosexuality in his recently published book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (2017).

Key Players

Reverend James Martin, S.J. is editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine based in New York. In 2017, he was appointed consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications by Pope Francis. Martin is known for having views on homosexuality that are unconventional within Catholicism. Specifically, he contends that homosexual individuals do not necessarily need to remain celibate. He is a prolific author and has discussed a number of issues relating to Catholicism on television and at schools and churches across the United States.

Theological College is the national seminary of CUA, which is run by American bishops, unlike other Catholic-affiliated universities in the country. Though a separate entity, the seminary is located at CUA.

Further Details

CUA has hosted Martin in the past, but the October 4, 2017, event would have been the first time the seminary hosted him. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Theological College Rector Father Gerald McBrearity said the seminary disinvited Martin in order to avoid distraction and controversy. In a statement, McBrearity explained that the decision “In no way . . . signal[s] approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made [toward Martin] over the recent weeks.”

The university released a separate statement on September 16, 2017, clarifying the situation and apologizing for the disinvitation. It stated that the seminary’s decision did “not reflect the University’s policy on inviting speakers to campus,” and acknowledged the fact that the disinvitation of controversial speakers is a prominent issue on college campuses generally. The president of CUA, John Garvey, said that “universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas.”

Martin also released his own statement about the situation via his Facebook page on September 15, 2017. He explained to his followers that the Theological College told him it canceled the event because it did not want “protests and negative publicity” to tarnish it. Martin provided links to specific websites that were coordinating the campaign to complain about the event to the Theological College’s office. The people participating in the campaign primarily objected to the reverend’s refusal to emphasize the Catholic teaching that homosexual people should remain celibate.

According to The New York Times, Martin’s stance on homosexuality has “led to insults and ‘joking’ threats of violence against him. Conservative Catholics have called him ‘effeminate,’ a ‘homosexualist,’ ‘a heretic,’ ‘pansified’ and guilty of ‘leading young men to perdition.'”


Martin’s appearance canceled; no plan to reschedule

Rev. James Martin did not speak at Theological College on October 4, 2017. As of February 2018, the event had not been rescheduled and no plans to do so had been announced.

External Resources

Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Then Faces Backlash, The New York Times

Fr. James Martin uninvited from talk at CUA seminary, National Catholic Reporter

September 15, 2017 Facebook Post, Father James Martin

University Statement on Father James Martin, S.J., Invitation, Catholic University

Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book, Washington Post

Prepared by Emma Vahey ’20

February 27, 2018

Grand Canyon University – August 2017

Professor suspended for incendiary comment about members of Black Lives Matter

Phoenix, AZ

Toby Jennings, a professor at Grand Canyon University (GCU), a for-profit Christian college in Phoenix, Arizona, was placed on leave after saying that some members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement deserve to be “hung.”

Key Players

On September 19, 2016, theology professor Toby Jennings made controversial remarks about BLM during a seminar discussion titled, “God’s Concern for the Poor: What’s Missing in Social Justice?” He said that some members of the BLM movement were “very gracious and discerning and conversationally, dynamically dialoguing about the issue,” but that “then you have people on the opposite extreme of that that frankly should be hung.” A video of the forum was posted online.

Further Details

After his language elicited a strong reaction from the audience at the event, Jennings tried to clarify his comment. “That kind of rhetoric is not helpful to any conversation, and that’s what I mean by they should be hung,” he said. It wasn’t until nearly a year later, in August 2017, that the controversy over his remarks picked up steam. Local members of BLM and the NAACP told GCU administrators about Jennings’ comments and called on the university to fire him.

According to a statement released by GCU, leaders in the professor’s college did address Jennings’ comments with him immediately after the incident, but they did not bring the issue to university executives. As soon as GCU administrators learned of the incident, they “immediately removed the video and, within 48 hours, met with local leaders of Black Lives Matter to apologize, assure them that this rhetoric does not reflect the actions or beliefs of the University as a whole, and to discuss this situation more fully.”

The university also denounced Jennings’ comment more broadly. “The reprehensible rhetoric in this statement is unacceptable, and the university condemns it in the strongest terms,” GCU’s statement read. “The university wants to be clear that the professor’s rhetoric in no way reflects the heart of this university or its dedicated students, faculty, and staff.”


Jennings apologizes, is suspended indefinitely

Jennings apologized in a written statement for his “inappropriate, uncharitable, and incendiary comments.” He said he regretted having “inexcusably offended many fellow image-bearers of God.”

On August 22, 2017, Jennings was placed on administrative leave indefinitely while the university conducted an investigation of the incident. As of February 23, 2018, he had not yet been reinstated.

External References

Black Ariz. professor suspended for saying some Black Lives Matter members should be hung, The Washington Times

Ariz. professor suspended after saying members of Black Lives Matter ‘should be hung,’ The Root

Grand Canyon U. suspends professor for saying some Black Lives Matter supporters “should be hung,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

Under fire, these professors were criticized by their colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education

GCU statement regarding September 2016 Ministry Forum

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

February 26, 2018

California State University, Fresno – February – December 2017

Adjunct professor penalized for anti-Trump tweets

Fresno, CA

Lars Maischak is an adjunct professor of American history at California State University, Fresno. In February 2017, he posted a number of tweets criticizing President Trump on his personal Twitter account, including one that said Trump “must hang.” After the tweets drew national attention, the university removed him from his teaching position.

Key Players

Lars Maischak first began lecturing in the history department at Fresno State in 2006. He was in the middle of a three-year contract when he tweeted a series of incendiary comments to his 28 Twitter followers in February 2017. Three of his tweets were particularly notable. Posted on February 17, 19, and 22, respectively, they read:

“To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and higher the better. #TheResistance #DeathtoFascism.”

“#TheResistance Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?”

“#TheResistance #ethniccleansing Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.”

Further Details

On April 6, 2017, The Daily Caller, a conservative news agency in Washington, D.C., received an anonymous tip about Maischak’s anti-Trump tweets. The reporter who found the tip, Rob Shimshock, attempted to contact Maischak and Fresno State. The professor did not respond, but a spokesperson from the university assured Shimshock that the sentiments expressed in the tweets did not reflect the university’s opinion.

The next day, the Caller published its first story about Maischak and his tweets, and Breitbart and other conservative media quickly followed suit. Before long, the mainstream media, including “Fox and Friends,” The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, picked up the story as well. The tweets went viral. Five days after the first story ran, Maischak deleted his Twitter account and publicly apologized, saying the tweets were taken out of context, that he never expected them to be viewed by so many people, and that he had not intended to incite violence. He told Politico that he had received multiple death threats online.

When the story blew up, the university cancelled Maischak’s classes for two days before suspending him from classroom teaching. He was put on paid leave for the remainder of the spring semester, and then assigned to a non-teaching position for the the remainder of his contract, which expires in May 2018.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro commented on the decision, saying, “Dr. Maischak reiterated that it was not his intent to incite violence or harm others, however, Fresno State has a responsibility to continue a review of the situation.” Denying that the university was taking a political stand, Castro said, “This particular matter—along with others around the country—very much places universities in a position where we can educate our community about what is and what is not free speech… In general, our students are not fully aware of what the First Amendment includes.”

Maischak told Politico that he thinks his tweets should be protected by academic freedom. He said he does not regret posting them, though he wishes he had known he could make his Twitter account private. “You can’t honestly regret saying something that was true just because of the consequences,” he said.


Maischak’s situation sparks a conversation about academic free speech

The firestorm around Maischak’s tweets and Fresno State’s decision to remove him from the classroom have featured prominently in debates about academic freedom, especially for adjuncts. There is intense speculation about whether the university will renew Maischak’s contract after it ends in May 2018.

Federal agencies investigate

According to President Castro, in April 2017 Fresno State was cooperating with the Secret Service, Homeland Security, and the FBI as they investigated Maischak and his tweets. Maischak told Politico in September 2017 that he had heard nothing regarding the federal investigation’s progress and assumed it had come to a halt.

External References

A College Lecturer Tweeted, “Trump Must Hang.” He Doesn’t Regret It, Politico Magazine

After anti- Trump tweets, Fresno State removes adjunct professor from teaching position, Inside Higher Ed

Fresno State Lecturer: ‘Trump must hang’ to Save Democracy, Breitbart

Professor Tweets ‘Trump Must Hang,’ Republicans Should Be Executed For Each Immigrant Deported, The Daily Caller

Fresno State says FBI, Secret Service probing professor’s tweets, The Fresno Bee

Fresno State vows to cooperate in any federal investigation, The Fresno Bee

Lecturer who tweeted ‘Trump must hang’ won’t teach at Fresno State this fall, The Fresno Bee

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

February 23, 2018

Essex County College – June 8, 2017

Adjunct professor fired for on-air comments

Newark, NJ

Political commentator Lisa Durden was fired from her position as an adjunct professor at Essex County College in New Jersey after she shared controversial remarks on Fox News.

Key Players

Lisa Durden is an African-American producer, filmmaker, and media commentator. From January 2017 until her firing five months later,, she taught classes on popular culture, mass communication, and speech at Essex County College in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

Tucker Carlson is the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” a program that airs weeknights at 8 pm ET on Fox News, and which replaced “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2017 after veteran host Bill O’Reilly was accused of sexual misconduct. Carlson is known for challenging “political correctness” and liberal social media. Fox News calls his show “the sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness and group think.”

Further Details

On June 6, 2017, Lisa Durden appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to debate the host about an all-black Memorial Day celebration in the Bronx hosted by a chapter of Black Lives Matter. She defended the event and the group’s desire to exclude white people from it. The debate became heated, and at one point Durden said, “You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your ‘white privilege’ card to get invited” to the celebration. Carlson responded by calling her “hostile and separatist and crazy.” According to The Washington Post, he continued, “You’re demented actually. You’re sick and what you’re saying is disgusting and if you were a Nazi I would say the same thing to you.”

When Durden reported to campus on June 8 to teach her speech class, she discovered she had been suspended from the college until further notice. She cancelled her class that day and reported to the human resources department, where she learned that she would not be allowed to finish teaching her summer course. Two weeks later, Durden was fired despite already being scheduled to teach classes in the fall, reported the Post.

Essex County College President Anthony E. Monroe released a statement announcing the school’s decision to fire Durden, explaining that after her appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the college was immediately inundated with feedback from students, faculty and prospective students and their families expressing frustration, concern and even fear that the views expressed by a College employee (with influence over students) would negatively impact their experience on the campus.”

Munroe said the college “supports and affirms the right of free speech and independent views and expressions of those views for our faculty and staff.” However, it denounces “any conduct that implies that all students are not welcome to participate in, or benefit from, our programs or activities on the basis of their race, color, orientation or national origin.” Ultimately, the college concluded it could not maintain an employment relationship with the adjunct.”

Durden told the Post she didn’t mean to imply on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that all white people are racist, and wished she had been clearer with her remarks. But she also defended her comments, saying that she did not choose the topic of the debate for the show and that a debate is never meant to be an easy discussion. She said she knew there would be heated disagreement, and she does not understand why her appearance affected her standing at the school.

According to the Post, a representative from Essex’s human resources department told Durden she was fired partly because she associated herself with the college in the interview. However, Durden was not identified as an Essex employee on the show, only as a “political commentator.”


FIRE brings lawsuit against Essex County College

After Durden was fired, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) requested that Essex turn over evidence of the negative feedback with which they were supposedly “immediately inundated” after the adjunct professor’s appearance on Carlson’s show. When the community college reportedly ignored the open records requests, FIRE filed a lawsuit against Essex in the Superior Court of New Jersey on January 3, 2018. A few weeks later, more than six months after FIRE filed its initial records request on July 13, 2017, Essex turned over records relating to Durden’s termination. These documents contradict Munroe’s claims that the school was “immediately inundated” with complaints about Durden after she debated Carlson.

Durden: “Essex County College publicly lynched me in front of my students”

According to, Durden said the school’s decision to cancel her classes and suspend her without warning was designed to humiliate her. She also said the school violated her First Amendment rights by firing her for her comments on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Many of Durden’s Essex colleagues were upset about her termination, and started an online petition to have her reinstated. As of February 12, 2018, it had over 2,500 signatures.

External References

Professor fired after defending blacks-only event to Fox News. ‘I was publicly lynched,’ she says, The Washington Post

Going on Fox News cost me my job, professor claims,

Tucker Carlson Tonight,

FIRE sues college for ignoring records request,

After FIRE lawsuit, Essex County College finally turns over documents,

Reinstate Professor Lisa Durden! Equality for Adjuncts!

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

February 23, 2018


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