Evergreen State College – May 2017

Olympia, Washington

Student activists demanded the firing of Biology Professor Bret Weinstein, whom they believed to be racist. Weinstein publicly opposed a request by minority students that Caucasian faculty and students remain off campus during the “Day of Absence.“ Additionally, he opposed a recommendation by Evergreen State College’s Equity and Inclusion Council to require an “equity justification/explanation” for all faculty hires. Campus police instructed Weinstein to stay off campus in order to ensure his safety. More than 50 faculty members signed a letter demanding disciplinary action against him. Weinstein and his wife, also a professor at the college, resigned from their respective positions after winning a $500,000 settlement in a tort claim against the college.

Key Players

Professor Bret Weinstein, who teaches biology at Evergreen, adopted a controversial position on two issues related to race and diversity on campus.

President George Bridges said at the time that Weinstein’s job is not in danger and that his right to speak out had never been threatened. Bridges rejected demands from students that Weinstein be fired. However, he announced that Evergreen will work to foster a more inclusive and diverse environment, including mandatory diversity and cultural sensitivity training for all faculty members. Additionally, Bridges accepted a policy recommendation that every official event at Evergreen start with an acknowledgment that it is located on land stolen from Native Americans.

Further Details

The Day of Absence event was inspired by a play written by Douglas Turner Ward in 1965, reports Inside Higher Ed. It has become a campus tradition, during which minority students and faculty members meet off-campus to discuss how to make higher education institutions more inclusive. Students also organize a Day of Presence to reunite the campus. While Weinstein had no objection to this tradition, he opposed the new request by student organizers that white people remain off campus. He sent an email to campus community members saying, “on a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.” Students claim that his email was condescending and disrespectful to organizers of the event. Weinstein also disapproves of a proposed “equity justification/explanation” for faculty hires, grounding his opposition in the principle of equality. Weinstein told Inside Higher Ed that he believes colleges should actively attempt to attract diverse candidates, but he argues that the proposal “subordinates all other characteristics of applicants to one thing.” He maintains that the motivation for hiring a professor should be his or her academic qualifications, not diversity.

Some of Weinstein’s fellow faculty members have sharply criticized his public comments, claiming that his recounting of events was unfair. A letter signed by faculty members also charged that Weinstein had “endangered faculty, staff and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets and on social media.” In the wake of this incident, Evergreen was forced to close its campus due to direct threats of violence. The Olympian reports that one individual was able to prompt the closing of campus by telling emergency call operators, “Yes, I’m on my way to Evergreen University (sic) now with a .44 Magnum. I am gonna execute as many people on that campus as I can get a hold of.” Law enforcement officials in New Jersey later arrested a resident of that state for making the call threatening the campus, charging him with terroristic threats, criminal coercion,and false public alarm, reports NJ.com.

Student protesters interrupted Weinstein’s classes, shouting about racism and white privilege, according to The New York Times. Students have also highlighted a fatal attack on two men in nearby Portland, Oregon, who were trying to defend two Muslim women. Some students view this incident as evidence that minorities face real dangers in society.

The board of trustees issued a statement in which it criticized the student protesters, claiming that some individuals had partaken in uncivil and inappropriate behavior. The statement reaffirmed Evergreen’s commitment to Free Speech, while pledging to take a “measured approach” in delving “further into issues of diversity and equity at Evergreen.”

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni weighed in on the controversy in a column titled, “These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop.” Bruni criticized student protesters at Evergreen, writing that Weinstein’s remarks were “a reasonable perspective and a prompt for discussion, not fury.”

In August 2017, The College Fix reported that enrollment has declined since the previous fall at Evergreen State College. Although conservative media outlets blamed this decline on recent unrest on campus, a spokesman for the college maintained that the enrollment decline stemmed from increased competition among small, liberal arts colleges, KUOW reports.

In July 2017, Weinstein and his wife, a professor of anthropology at Evergreen, filed a $3.85 million tort claim against the college, alleging that it had failed to “protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence,” according to The Seattle Times. In September, Weinstein and his wife resigned from their respective positions at Evergreen State College. Evergreen administrators agreed to pay the couple $450,000, as well as $50,000 for attorney fees. However, an email from Evergreen officials announcing the settlement noted that “the college admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim. The educational activities of Day of Absence/Day of Presence were not discriminatory. The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters during spring quarter, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe,” reports The Seattle Times.


Professor Resigns, Wins Settlement from University

Weinstein and his wife won a $500,000 settlement from Evergreen State College after filing a $3.85 million tort claim. Although the college admitted no liability, Weinstein and his wife claimed that the college had provided inadequate protection in the face of hostility relating to the Day of Absence incident.

Free Speech Supported by the Administration

College administrators have defended Weinstein’s freedom of speech. However, Weinstein believes that President Bridges has advanced a “false narrative” and failed to acknowledge the harassment that Weinstein and his students faced. Additionally, the statement by the board of trustees was critical of student protesters.

External References:

Evergreen Regroups Amid Discord, Inside Higher Education

These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop, The New York Times

Statement by the Board of Trustees

Morris man’s threats led to 2-day shutdown of college, authorities say, NJ.com

Enrollment Drops At Evergreen State College, Hiring Freeze Coming, KUOW

Evergreen professor at center of protests resigns; college will pay $500,000, The Seattle Times

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

November 14, 2017

Tufts University – March 2015–November 2016

Medford, MA

Administrators at Tufts University enacted a new Sexual Misconduct Policy in March 2015 that included broad restrictions on any speech that could be construed as sexual harassment. The types of speech that the policy labeled as “unwanted conduct” included innuendo, use of pet names, and failing to address someone by a preferred gender pronoun. In November 2016, the Tufts Community Union Senate voted unanimously to reject a resolution demanding a change in the policy to exclude overly vague and nonspecific speech restrictions. Students Advocating for Students, a group concerned about civil liberties issues on campus, had originally presented the resolution to the Senate.

Key Players

The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at Tufts University, led by Executive Director Jill Zellmer, enacted the new Sexual Misconduct Policy in March 2015.

The Tufts-based group “Students Advocating for Students” (SAS), led by President Jake Goldberg, a member of the Class of 2019, drafted a resolution to change language in the Sexual Misconduct Policy in order to eliminate eight prohibitions that it deemed to be “free speech violations.”

The Tufts Community Union Senate, a student legislative body, voted unanimously to reject the SAS’s resolution and preserve the Sexual Misconduct Policy as it stood.

Further Details

In March 2015, the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at Tufts University revised the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, a document that outlines prohibited conduct ranging from classroom and workplace harassment to sexual assault. The policy was designed to correspond with state and federal laws, and was reviewed by a separate Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force prior to its implementation. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights also conditionally approved the policy, Zellmer told The Tufts Daily.

In November 2016, SAS drafted a resolution labeling eight specific portions of the Sexual Misconduct Policy as “free speech violations.” These “violations” included “the prohibition of inappropriate communications via letters, telephone calls, emails, or texts; sexual jokes or describing of sexual conduct; comments on an individual’s body or appearance; comments about sexual activity or experiences; innuendos of a sexual nature; use of nicknames or terms of endearment; sexist statements or behavior; taunting slurs or other verbal conduct against those who are perceived to be failing to conform to expected notions of masculinity or femininity.”

In addition to the eight violations that SAS alleged were present in the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the resolution called for changes to other university documents that contained supposed Free Speech restrictions, including the Student Code of Conduct and the guide to on-campus living.

Jake Goldberg, SAS president, told The Tufts Daily that the administration had implemented “policies that are way too vague for [him] to actually know what [he] can and cannot say.” He also stated that he would prefer the University adhere to the outline set by the 1999 Supreme Court case Monroe v. Davis, which states that Title IX violations must be severe enough to undermine an alleged victim’s educational experience.

On November 20, 2016, the Tufts Community Union Senate voted 26-0 to reject the resolution presented by SAS. According to The Tufts Daily, multiple student senators spoke at the meeting to condemn the resolution, arguing that changing language in the Sexual Misconduct Policy would make it more difficult to discipline perpetrators of sexual harassment and to protect Tufts University students and faculty from sexual misconduct.

The Tufts Community Union Senate does not have the authority to change the official University policy, but it can strongly recommend to administrators that certain things be altered or refined. Zellmer, the OEO executive director, told the Tufts Daily that the university would likely not have had the legal leeway to change the policy had the resolution passed.


Sexual Misconduct Policy remains unchanged

The Tufts Community Union Senate rejected the resolution calling for a change to the Sexual Misconduct Policy, and the policy remained in force unaltered. SAS promised to continue pursuing its mission to defend students’ civil liberties.

External References:

TCU Senate votes down resolution by Students Advocating for Students, Tufts Daily

Tufts University Sexual Misconduct Policy

Senate Resolution, Drafted by Students Advocating for Students

Prepared by Jack Lynch ‘18

August 22, 2017

San Francisco State University – April 6, 2016 and April 5, 2017

San Francisco, CA

Nir Barkat, the Mayor of Jerusalem, accused San Francisco State University (SFSU) officials of blundering his planned appearance at the school twice, and the incidents have now resulted in a lawsuit. In 2016, San Francisco Hillel, an extracurricular group for Jewish students at SFSU and other local institutions, invited Barkat to speak on campus. His talk was quickly interrupted by protesters from another student group, the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), who chanted for over an hour about their opposition to Israel’s “occupation of Palestine.” Eventually, Barkat left without finishing his remarks and vowed to come back a year later. He arranged a second appearance with the SFSU administration in 2017, but backed out after he claimed the university did not adequately publicize and plan for the event. The incidents surrounding Barkat join a string of campus mishaps at SFSU that some Jewish students claim perpetuate anti-Semitism among the administration and student body.

Key Players

Nir Barkat was elected mayor of Jerusalem, Israel, in 2008. Before that, Barkat spent five years as leader of the opposition in Jerusalem’s City Council. He was first invited to the SFSU campus by San Francisco Hillel in 2016.

Dr. Leslie E. Wong is president of San Francisco State University. According to his official biography, Wong joined SFSU in 2012 after eight years as president of Northern Michigan University and executive positions at two other institutions. His academic field is educational psychology. Barkat and the Jewish students of SFSU blamed the disruption of Barkat’s 2016 lecture on Wong’s negligence toward the Jewish community, and they allege that Barkat’s 2017 lecture was derailed due primarily to Wong’s unwillingness to repair relations with Barkat. Wong has since apologized for his actions in an open letter to the Jewish community and asked Barkat back to San Francisco. He is now the defendant in a lawsuit concerning anti-Semitism at SFSU.

Further Details

Mayor Barkat’s speech, sponsored by San Francisco Hillel, was interrupted in 2016 by a group of students protesting Israel’s actions in Palestine. The students chanted for nearly an hour, sometimes through a megaphone. Newsweek reports that the protesters shouted, “Get the fuck off our campus” and called for intervention by a Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, of the sort that has previously broken out in Israel in recent years. A YouTube video shows the event’s attendees grouped tightly around Barkat as the protesters in the back of the theater successfully prevent them from hearing his remarks.

The University’s Jewish community alleges that the campus chief of police — who arrived in plain clothes and did not make himself known — attended the event and was ordered to “stand down” by university officials, according to The Washington Post. The protesting students defied university policy, which prohibits the “[w]illful, material and substantial disruption or obstruction of a University-related activity,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Outraged by the disruption, Barkat abandoned his attempts to speak and vowed to return to campus the following year. “Dozens of anti-Israel protesters disrupted my public lecture through intimidation and provocation, vulgarities and incitement that bordered on the anti-Semitic,” Barkat later commented.

University President Leslie E. Wong commissioned an independent investigation of the incident. The investigators concluded that the university did not handle the protest properly and had ignored complaints from three Jewish students, according to Inside Higher Ed. No students were punished for the protest. SFSU has since enacted new policies to increase security for speakers on campus. The university also amended its “Time, Place, and Manner Policy” that describes the conditions under which a protest is acceptable. The school is organizing “Time, Place, and Manner” training for students and faculty, according to a statement by Wong.

A year after the first incident, Barkat decided to deliver on his promise to return to SFSU. He cancelled, however, upon discovering that the university had failed “to provide the necessary public forum and properly publicize [the] lecture,” which he says “has contributed to the continuing marginalization and demonization of the Jewish state.” Barkat claimed that because the event was limited to ticketed guests and not adequately promoted, the university diminished the prospective audience.

Wong alleges, however, that Barkat did not allow enough time for the university to organize the event properly, notifying school officials of his trip just seven days in advance. Wong insists that he told Barkat’s staff the university would need three weeks to plan for an event of that magnitude. “Given the short notice of his visit, we quickly put together a plan that prioritized the safety of the mayor and our community while facilitating respectful dialogue,” Wong said.

The incident occurs at a time in which the decades-long territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine has become one of the most divisive foreign policy issues in the United States. The Pew Research Center found in 2016 that Democrats and Republicans have drifted further apart on the matter since 2001. The study also shows that there is a large generation gap in Americans’ opinions on the subject, with Millennials (Americans born after 1980) more likely than their parents to sympathize with Palestine. Because of this, college campuses have become battlegrounds for activism on both sides. “When it comes to the Middle East on campus, the environment is increasingly uneasy and even hostile. Many universities are grappling with how to balance students’ right to protest with Jewish students’ fears that their culture is under attack,” The New York Times reported in 2016.

Shortly after Barkat cancelled the second event, Wong penned an open letter in The Jewish News of Northern California in which he apologized for SFSU’s missteps and pledged to make the universty a safe space for all students. “University campuses are not quiet spaces, and I would argue that they shouldn’t be. But the noise should come from sessions where tough and difficult ideas are confronted in a spirit of learning and respect. Bullhorns don’t do it, and the idea of silencing and preventing the marketplace of ideas is both sad and disturbing,” Wong wrote.

Even with Wong’s assurances, the Jewish philanthropic organization, The Koret Foundation, pulled $1.7 million in promised funding from SFSU. Inside Higher Ed reports that Wong has asked Jewish faculty members to help repair the school’s relationship with the Foundation.


Jewish Students Sue University

In 2017, former and current Jewish students at SFSU partnered with a pro-Israel nonprofit organization, The Lawfare Project, to sue the school and its officials for violating “the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection, as well as a provision of the Civil Rights Act,” The Washington Post reports. Plaintiffs detail a hostile environment in which they are afraid to wear yarmulkes or Stars of David on campus, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Anti-Defamation League finds that anti-Semitic incidents increased 34 percent in 2016 and another 86 percent in 2017 in the United States. Fewer than 8 percent of the SFSU student body is Jewish, according to Hillel International.

The lawsuit alleges that the two incidents involving Barkat are just a hint of the controversy in the University’s tense, decades-long relationship with Jewish students and professors. The suit indicates that between 1992 and 2002, students supportive of Palestine erected a 10-foot mural (later sandblasted) that associated Jewish money with “African blood,” flew a banner that equated an Israeli flag with a swastika, promoted an event about genocide with a poster of a dead baby and an Israeli flag, and told a group of Jewish students that Hitler “didn’t finish the job.” In 2013, a pro-Palestinian student group was allegedly protected under the university’s speech code for spreading the message that “resistance is not terrorism,” accompanied by images of guns, according to The Washington Post. In early 2017, Hillel alleges that it was excluded from a Know Your Rights campaign co-organized by GUPS that was intended to educate vulnerable groups about their constitutional rights.

The suit names Wong as a defendant because plaintiffs say he has directly contributed to an allegedly hostile campus climate. Inside Higher Ed reports that in 2014 Wong allegedly threatened to eliminate the Jewish Studies Department for not performing financially, despite $7 million in endowments. A year later, he applauded GUPS in a speech that some say slighted Jewish organizations.

Students supportive of Palestine say they are affected by campus hostility as well, with some indicating that they found racist, anti-Arab posters on campus.

SFSU officials said that they do not agree with the legal complaint and that the university condemns “all forms of hate and anti-Semitism.” Other opponents of the lawsuit worry that it conflates opposition to the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The suit is pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Meanwhile, a San Francisco ABC News affiliate reports that both SFSU administrators and Barkat are open to the possibility of a third visit.

External References:

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat tries to speak at San Francisco State University, YouTube video

Jerusalem mayor cancels visit to SFSU, accuses college of suppressing Jewish voice, San Francisco Examiner

The Bias That a College Ignores?, Inside Higher Education

‘I felt afraid’: Lawsuit claims public university fostered anti-Semitism on campus, The Washington Post

S.F. State and a teachable moment (Dr. Wong’s open letter), The Jewish News of Northern California

Prepared by Adelina Lancianese ‘17

August 22, 2017

DePaul University – November 2016

Chicago, IL

Administrators at DePaul University physically prevented conservative pundit Ben Shapiro from speaking at a planned event on campus. The DePaul University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) had invited Shapiro to give a presentation, but university administrators informed the group that Shapiro would not be permitted to appear due to “security concerns” and because his appearance would not “substantially contribute” to campus discourse. The YAF sent an open letter to the university rejecting what it considered to be censorship and invited Shapiro to speak nonetheless. Prevented from speaking by university administrators, Shapiro was forced to move the event to an off-campus venue.

Key Players

Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator who has served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and editor-at-large of Breitbart News. In 2016, Shapiro spoke to students at numerous universities on a tour that was financially supported by the conservative student organization Young America’s Foundation (YAF). Shapiro’s tour had the intention of “invading campus ‘safe spaces,’” according to the Daily Wire’s press release.

Bob Janis, vice president of facilities at DePaul University, told YAF in an email that the university would not be able to accommodate an appearance by Shapiro, referencing controversies and sometimes violent protests that had occurred on other campuses where Shapiro had spoken.

The DePaul University chapter of YAF, a nationwide conservative student group, had invited Shapiro to speak on campus and wrote an open letter rejecting the University’s ban on controversial speakers.

Further Details

The DePaul University College Republicans and the university’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom invited Shapiro to come to Chicago to give a public lecture about Free Speech issues on college campuses. Shapiro was scheduled to speak alongside Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank. Prior to joining AEI to study the politics of gender and feminism, Sommers was a professor of philosophy at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

Shapiro’s visit to campus came shortly after conservative activist Milo Yiannopolous spoke at DePaul, an event that drew condemnation from students and was interrupted by protesters. DePaul President Dennis H. Holtschneider later admitted that he had made the wrong choice in allowing students who disagreed with Yiannopolous essentially to silence the guest speaker through their disruptive actions. He later resigned from his position as president. In a letter to DePaul’s faculty after his resignation, Holtschneider did not specifically mention the controversy surrounding Yiannopolous, but wrote that “it’s best for DePaul if I step down.”

In August 2016, DePaul’s YAF chapter invited Shapiro to speak on campus in November, but university administrator Bob Janis informed the group by email that Shapiro’s visit to campus could not take place, writing, “Given the experiences and security concerns that some other schools have had with Ben Shapiro speaking on their campuses, DePaul cannot agree to allow him to speak on our campus at this time.”

In November 2016, DePaul University’s YAF chapter once again invited Shapiro, this time publishing an open letter to the administration explaining its invitation and its decision to defy the university’s ban on Shapiro’s appearance. The letter stated, in part, “There is no argument to be made that Ben Shapiro does not substantively contribute to this crucial dialogue. Therefore, DePaul YAF is excited to announce that on Tuesday, November 15, alongside Christina Hoff Sommers, Ben Shapiro will be speaking on our campus in Cortelyou Commons at 5:00 PM.”

When the time came for Shapiro’s presentation, campus police officers physically prevented him from entering the building where the event was to take place. During a brief verbal altercation, Shapiro asked campus police officers and administrators if they were barring his efforts to speak freely and express himself, an allegation that administrators denied. Unable to enter the building where the event had been scheduled, Shapiro went instead to a local off-campus theatre space and called the cellphone of Sommers, who at the time was on stage at the original venue. He invited Sommers and the audience at the on-campus venue to join him off-campus in order to continue their discussion.

The substitute event, which took place off-campus, garnered a significant crowd and necessitated an overflow site in an adjacent room.


Shapiro Speaks Off-Campus

Ben Shapiro, joined by Christina Hoff Sommers and a large student audience, spoke at an off-campus venue after being prevented from entering the room on campus where YAF had invited him to appear.

External References:

How DePaul students missed out on a timely lesson about Trump, Chicago Tribune

Defiant Ben Shapiro will appear at DePaul University despite ban, Fox News

Breaking: DePaul University Bans Shapiro, The Daily Wire

Prepared by Jack Lynch ‘18

August 22, 2017

California State University, Los Angeles – February 25, 2016

Los Angeles, CA

After California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) President William Covino disinvited conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from a scheduled appearance on campus, Shapiro — supported by the student organization Young America’s Foundation — spoke on campus anyway. Dozens of students protesting his appearance faced off against Shapiro’s supporters, the CSULA administration, and the police, according to a local ABC News affiliate. The protesting students expressed their disdain for what they called Covino’s passivity and blocked entrances to the event space, effectively barring potential attendees from entering the venue of Shapiro’s speech.

Key Players

Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator who has served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and editor-at-large of Breitbart News. In 2016, Shapiro spoke to students at numerous universities on a tour that was financially supported by the conservative student organization Young America’s Foundation (YAF). Shapiro’s tour had the intention of “invading campus ‘safe spaces,’” according to The Daily Wire’s press release. After Shapiro was whisked away by campus police an hour into his speech at CSULA in February 2016, YAF sued the university and ultimately settled.

Cal State, Los Angeles President William Covino assumed his role in 2013 after serving four years as the Provost of Cal State, Fresno. Before holding administrative positions at two other universities, he was an English professor, specializing in rhetoric and persuasion. He remains in his position at CSULA despite calls for his resignation by his critics after the Shapiro incident. President Covino is of the mindset that political speech must be uttered in a setting that caters to multiple viewpoints, reports a Washington Post columnist.

Further Details

Ben Shapiro announced in early 2016 that he would be giving a lecture entitled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” at CSULA. He said he wrote the speech because he believed that “It’s time for America’s precious snowflakes to learn that facts don’t care about your feelings, and that truth matters far more than the irrational emotional response to it.” Shapiro’s appearance was part of a lecture series sponsored by the conservative student organization Young America’s Foundation.

CSULA is ranked as the ninth best Hispanic-serving institution of higher education in the United States, and according to the school’s own documents, whites are in the minority there, at 7.8 percent of the campus’s student population. The Washington Post reports that the CSULA chapter of Young America’s Foundation arranged for the event to occur on Thursday, February 25, 2016, at the University Student Union, and the student government contributed $560 from its general fund to support it.

A CSULA professor of Pan-African Studies, Melina Abdullah, posted a photo of the event’s flyer on Facebook and garnered 72 shares. The event’s Facebook page became consumed with a heated discussion. Critics argued that Shapiro threatened the safety of the School’s largely minority population, while supporters applauded CSULA for its support of conservatism and Free Speech.

Four days before Shapiro’s lecture, Inside Higher Ed reported that CSULA President William Covino had announced the event would be cancelled in an email to YAF chapter chair Mark Kahanding. Covino proposed to “reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.” The next day, however, Shapiro spoke out on social media, tweeting: “I’ll be there on Thursday. See you there, snowflakes.”

Writing about the incident in The Washington Post, Law Professor Eugene Volokh argued that CSULA’s actions violated the 1995 Supreme Court ruling in Rosenberger v. Rector that universities cannot discriminate against student groups based on ideology. The national leadership of YAF stated that they were “sickened” by what had happened. The group characterized Covino’s decision as “a clear violation of student rights,” especially considering that the university had previously permitted liberal commentators such as Angela Davis to speak on campus.

The university community waited for final word from the president’s office, which came just hours before Shapiro was slated to appear. Covino stated that if Shapiro came, the university would do nothing to stop him. Students protesting his appearance quickly mobilized, blocking entrances to the Student Union and staging a sit-in at Covino’s office to call for his resignation.

YAF paid over $600 for Shapiro’s private security to escort him to the event. Hundreds of people attended, and 40,000 more watched live online, Shapiro’s website, The Daily Wire, claims. Shapiro lectured for nearly an hour before a fire alarm went off in the building. He continued his talk through the noise, insisting that he would not be silenced. Eventually, police whisked Shapiro away, out of concern for his safety. Footage from a local ABC News affiliate shows anti-Shapiro protesters clashing with his supporters outside, with some being handcuffed by police.

In the aftermath of the incident, President Covino remained in his post and Shapiro continued his lecture series into the spring of 2016.


University Settles YAF Lawsuit

In May 2016, YAF filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles alleging that CSULA had violated the Constitution by canceling Shapiro’s lecture and that it inadequately protected Shapiro. Among other claims, the suit states that the $600 burden of extra security fell unjustly on the student group and that professors encouraged students to block entry to the event, forcing Shapiro to speak before a “half-empty theater.” The suit also claims that YAF Chair Kahanding was “falsely imprisoned” by protesters blocking the exits. The plaintiffs argued that the school denied Shapiro his “fundamental rights to free speech, due process and equal protection of the law.” They sought nominal damages, compensatory damages, and civil penalties, according to LA Weekly.

In March 2017, the CSULA student newspaper reported that YAF had dropped the lawsuit, having reached a settlement with the university. In the year since the incident, CSULA had changed its Free Speech policies to the satisfaction of YAF and agreed to pay security fees for controversial speakers in the future. Shapiro said of the settlement: “I’m excited that we were able to come to an agreement with them to protect free speech in the future, and I look forward to coming to the campus soon to speak again.” The settlement cleared all CSULA employees of any wrongdoing and voided the suit’s claim for restitution.

FIRE Names CSULA One of the Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2017

Exactly one year after Shapiro’s event led to outrage on the CSULA campus, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) — a nonprofit group that advocates for unfettered Free Speech in academia — added CSULA to its annual list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.” In an interview with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, FIRE’s senior program officer, Adam Steinbaugh, applauded those who protested Shapiro’s appearance for countering speech with more speech, but condemned the university’s administration for hindering speech based on content alone.

External References:

Ben Shapiro escorted by police from CSULA due to angry protesters, ABC 7

Another Speaker Blocked, Inside Higher Ed

Conservative Pundit Sues Cal State L.A. Over Free Speech, LA Weekly

YAF Dropped Lawsuit Against University Employees, CSULA University Times

New report ranks Cal State LA as one of the worst colleges for free speech, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Cal State L.A. cancels speech by conservative writer Ben Shapiro, The Washington Post (opinion)

Prepared by Adelina Lancianese ‘17

August 22, 2017

Harvard University – March 30, 2017

Cambridge, MA

Harvard students and Cambridge, Massachusetts, residents protested the presence of the “Free Speech Bus,” a project funded by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Protesters wrote “HATE SPEECH BUS” on it and harassed a staffer for NOM.

Key Players

Joseph Grabowski is director of communications for NOM. He was harassed by protesters while descending from the “Free Speech Bus.”

Sheehan D. Scarborough is director of Harvard College’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life. Scarborough sent an email to students helping them prepare for the bus’s arrival in Cambridge.

Further Details

The “Free Speech Bus” is a political advertising tool sponsored by conservative action groups including NOM, CitizenGO, and the International Organization for the Family. While conducting a tour of East Coast cities, it made a stop at Harvard to criticize its support of transgender rights and the LGBTQ agenda. The bus parked across the street from Harvard Hall.

Protesters were on the scene when the bus arrived. While they waved rainbow flags and held signs that read “Trans is beautiful,” the writing on the bus read, “It’s Biology: Boys are boys… and always will be. Girls are girls… and always will be. You can’t change sex.” The conservative organizations funding the “Free Speech Bus” hoped it would spark a debate “that tries to accommodate for everyone,” Joseph Grabowski, director of communications for NOM, told The Harvard Crimson. “Unfortunately, it’s a very one-sided policy debate right now because of the fact that the noisy minority has been able to shout down the other side,” Grabowski added.

When Grabowski exited the bus, protesters “crowded around him, making explicit gestures and attempting to drape a rainbow pride flag over his shoulders,” according to The Crimson. Protesters also used permanent markers to write “HATE SPEECH BUS” and “Hate is not welcome here” on the vehicle.

While the bus was parked near Harvard Hall, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life hung a banner in the nearby Science Center Plaza that said “Trans Lives Matter” and invited those walking by to write their name on the sign. One undergraduate student named Lily Velona signed the banner and expressed frustration over the bus’s use of the term “free speech.” “I’ve been seeing lot [sic] of this as of late, where people are conflating free speech and hate speech,” Velona told The Crimson. “Hate speech is not protected speech. It’s not free speech. No one has the right to use hate speech.”

The Office of BGLTQ Student Life also sent undergraduate students a message of support. “Our lives are the punctuation mark on this debate, because at the end of the day, queer, and trans, and gender non-binary people exist,” wrote Office Director Sheehan Scarborough. “No message on a bus can cast a shadow on the radiant spectrum of light that is the awesome diversity of our human experience,” she said.

The Free Speech Bus also stopped at the Massachusetts State House. In response, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh raised the transgender flag on City Hall Plaza.


The “Free Speech Bus” was Vandalized by Students

Students used permanent markers to vandalize the bus with messages that accused it and its sponsors of promoting hate speech.

The University Provided Resources to Protect Trans Students

Through its Office of BGLTQ Student Life, Harvard College took the side of students offended by the bus and its message and provided counter messaging in the form of a banner that read “Trans Lives Matter.”

External References:

Free Speech Bus Tour Schedule

Students Protest Anti-Transgender ‘Free Speech’ Bus at Harvard, The Harvard Crimson

BGLTQ Office Prepares For Visit of Anti-Transgender ‘Free Speech’ Bus, The Harvard Crimson

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

August 22, 2017

Hampshire College – November 2016

Amherst, MA

Protesters criticized Hampshire College administrators’ decision, made in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president, to remove the American flag from the campus’ main flagpole. The flag was initially lowered to half-staff anonymously by students, but college administrators had decided to keep the flag in that position for a period of weeks. At intermittent times, however, the flag was removed entirely from the flagpole and replaced at half-staff or burned. On November 27, 2016, a group of 400 protesters, many of whom were veterans, criticized the handling of the flag, arguing that it was an important symbol and should not have been removed for political reasons.

Key Players

Jonathan Lash, president of Hampshire College, allowed the American flag on the college’s main flagpole to remain at half-staff after it had been partially lowered by students. He later had the flag removed entirely from the flagpole, but eventually put it back again..

Further Details

Shortly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some Hampshire students anonymously lowered the American flag on the college’s main flagpole to half-staff. Rather than raise the flag to its full height again, college administrators opted to keep the flag in a position that usually represents mourning. In a statement quoted in The New York Times, President Lash explained that, in the minds of some students, the flag was “a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up in marginalized communities, never feeling safe.” In addition, the college said on November 9, the maintenance of the flag at half-staff was a “reaction to the toxic tone of the months-long election.”

At some point during the night of November 10, 2016, an unknown person burned the flag. “If it was a political act,” Lash told The New York Times, “it was pretty craven and ineffective since people did it in secret and no one knows what it was meant to state.” The flag was replaced the following day, and this time the college’s board of trustees voted to keep it at half-staff. In an e-mail, the board stated that the flag would remain there, “to mourn deaths from violence in the U.S. and around the world.”

Less than a week later, however, the administration removed the flag from the flagpole entirely. In an e-mail to the college community, Lash said, “Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election. This, unequivocally, was not our intent.” Some outlets also reported that the American flag had been banned from the Hampshire College campus in any form, which Lash denied.

A group of approximately 400 people protested the removal of the flag during the weekend of November 26, 2016. The protesters, many of them veterans or relatives of veterans, insisted that the flag was an important American symbol and should not have been removed from the campus. The protesters gathered on the campus green, waving American flags and chanting “raise our flag.” Derek Cloutier, a Marine veteran, told The New York Times, “It’s disrespectful for the college to blatantly do that without even considering the effect on veterans and people who have respect for the flag.”

On December 1, 2016, the flag was again raised on the main flagpole. In a statement, Lash, whose father was an Army officer in the Pacific theater during World War II, said he regretted the college’s earlier decision to remove the flag, explaining “many hold the flag as a powerful symbol of national ideals and their highest aspirations for the country — including members of our own community.”


Flag restored to main flagpole

Jonathan Lash, the president of Hampshire College, had the American flag returned to the main flagpole on the college green. He also called for a continuing dialogue about the role of the flag on campus.

External References:

Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times

Joe Heim, The Washington Post

Prepared by Jack Lynch ‘18

August 22, 2017

Auburn University – April 18, 2017

Auburn, AL

An event featuring Richard Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist movement, inspired several hundred students to protest. Auburn University administrators attempted to cancel the event, citing safety concerns. However, a federal judge granted Spencer’s request for an injunction, effectively ordering Auburn to host him on campus

Key Players

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

US District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins granted Spencer’s request for an injunction after university officials canceled his visit. Watkins’ decision effectively ordered Auburn to host Spencer as originally scheduled.

Further Details

Richard Spencer’s invitation to speak at Auburn University inspired a mostly peaceful protest by several hundred students. Three protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.

Administrators from Auburn attempted to cancel the event, citing concerns that student demonstrations might result in violence or property damage. After receiving complaints from organizations such as the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Auburn administrators canceled a contract permitting the use of the planned venue, reports The New York Times. However, Judge W. Keith Watkins of the U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, issued an injunction, effectively forcing the public university to host the controversial speaker. The judge found no evidence that Spencer advocates violence, writing that “discrimination on the basis of message content cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,” according to The New York Times.

Prior to the injunction, administrators released a statement saying that, “Auburn University supports the rights and privileges afforded by the First Amendment. However, when the tenets of free speech are overshadowed by threats to the safety of our students, faculty and staff, we have a responsibility to protect our campus.” When the university cancelled Spencer’s scheduled visit, he redoubled his commitment to speak to students. “They think they have shut this down, but they haven’t,” he told The Plainsman. “I will give a speech on their campus. It is a public place. I think Auburn University is naive and has totally misunderstood who I am if they think that I am going to politely back out of this. I will be there 100 percent.” After Judge Watkins’ injunction, the university’s provost and chief diversity officer sent a letter to students requesting that they remain peaceful. The administrators also permitted students to miss classes on the day of the event.

Spencer’s lecture was attended by approximately 400 people, including both supporters and protesters. Attendees cheered and booed at various points during the presentation. At one point, Spencer said that the Auburn’s black football players perpetuate “sexual abuse of white women on campus,” The New York Times reports. Some of those in attendance chanted “let him speak,” in response to hecklers. Many people departed during Spencer’s two-hour speech, leaving a much smaller crowd by the end of the event, CNN reports.

Foy Hall, the auditorium where Spencer spoke, is available for rent to the public and was reserved in this case by a supporter of Spencer’s named Cameron Padgett. Spencer said the event was sponsored by AltRight.com, a white nationalist website, CNN reports.

Student groups, partnering with outside organizations such as the NAACP, set up a peaceful concert elsewhere on campus during the event. “The goal is to draw people away from that event and to overshadow it and to show what real solidarity and unity and diversity looks like,” Victoria Siciliano, communications coordinator for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Rights, told The New York Times.

Peaceful protesters wore orange ribbons on their wrists to identify themselves in case violence broke out, according to CNN. “You saw Berkeley,” one organizer told CNN. “Seeing people really get hurt and bloody is something we don’t want for our school population.”

“We’re trying to block hate speech with music and positive ideas and unity,” another student organizer told CNN. “We think this is a more effective message to the outside and to our minority students. Our goal is to not be the next Berkeley.”

As Spencer supporters exited the auditorium after the event, protesters began to chase them off campus.


Despite Auburn’s Attempts to Cancel the Event, Spencer Delivered Remarks at Auburn

Fearful of violent protests, Auburn administrators canceled the event. However, a federal judge granted Richard Spencer an injunction, effectively ordering the university to host a speech by the white nationalist. Spencer spoke to a crowded auditorium filled with both supporters and hecklers.

Students organized a peaceful concert to draw attention away from Spencer’s event

Fearful of violent protests, students organized a peaceful concert that took place at another area on campus. Some students wore orange wristbands to help law enforcement distinguish between peaceful and violent protesters. There were brief moments of violence outside of the event, resulting in three arrests.

External References:

Richard Spencer’s Full Speech at Auburn University

Auburn University Statement on Richard Spencer

Letter from Provost and Chief Diversity Officer regarding Spencer event

Against its wishes, Auburn hosts white nationalist Richard Spencer, CNN

Richard Spencer Speech at Auburn U. Greeted by Protests, The New York Times

Federal court rules in favor of Richard Spencer speech, The Plainsman

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

August 22, 2017

Georgetown University Law Center – March 2016

Washington, DC

Alexander Atkins, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, was prevented from obtaining and setting up a table to campaign for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate, in September 2015, on the law school’s campus. Law Center administrators cited the school’s status as a tax-exempt institution in preventing Atkins from soliciting for Sanders, on the grounds that the Internal Revenue Service prevents such institutions from supporting an individual political candidate. On March 3, 2016, Atkins testified about his experience at a U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing titled “Protecting the Free Exchange of Ideas on College Campuses.”

Key Players

Alexander Atkins, a former student at Georgetown University Law Center. In September 2015, he requested a table from administrators for the purpose of displaying and distributing materials advocating that Bernie Sanders be elected president of the United States. The request was denied because it was “in support of a specific candidate,” reports the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In October 2015 on the day of a Democratic primary debate, a group of students set up a table on campus to promote Sanders as a candidate. They were asked by the Law Center’s office of student life to cease their activity. Atkins contacted the school’s coordinator of student activities and was told that the school’s “Student Organization Policy on Partisan Political Activities” did not permit political campaigning, due to Georgetown University’s status as a non-profit.

Scott Fleming is associate vice president for federal relations at Georgetown University. Days before Atkins testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, Fleming wrote to subcommittee members explaining that the Law Center remained committed to promoting Free Speech, The Washington Post reports. Fleming emphasized that the administration was “adjusting the policies to make very clear that individuals as well as groups are able to reserve tables for organized activity and that all members of our community are able to make reasonable use of University resources to express their political opinions.”

Further Details

On February 1, 2016, FIRE wrote to the Georgetown Law Center requesting that the administration adjust its policy to allow partisan political speech. In a press release distributed on February 2, FIRE Senior Program Officer Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon argued that “nonprofit restrictions on political campaigning apply to the institution itself, not to students or student groups.”

Ari Z. Cohn, an attorney who works for FIRE, claims that similar incidents occur frequently during election cycles, The Washington Free Beacon reports. He also noted that tax-exempt status is limited to speech from the institution itself, not the students.

On March 17, 2016, the Law Center announced policy revisions that encouraged students and faculty to participate in the political process, noting that “individuals should make clear that the views they express are their own, and should not suggest or imply that they are speaking for or in the name of Georgetown University or Georgetown University Law Center.” Individuals are also allowed to use “campus communications,” but cannot use “University-supported resources” like email or computer networks or servers to promote partisan political events.


Georgetown University Law Center Revises Policy

Georgetown University Law Center clarified its policy on political activism by stating that individuals are allowed to advocate for political candidates, but must make clear that their speech is individual and not representative of the institution as a whole.

External References:

Congressional Committee Scrutinizes GULC Free Speech Policy, The Hoya

Georgetown Law Students Forbidden from Campaigning on Campus for Bernie Sanders as Election Season Kicks Off in Iowa, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Student says Georgetown Law suppresses political activity; school says it supports free speech, The Washington Post

Students at Georgetown Banned from Handing Out Campaign Materials Supporting Bernie Sanders, The Washington Free Beacon

Georgetown Law Policy on Partisan Political Activities and Lobbying

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

August 22, 2017

Portland State University – January 27, 2017

Portland, OR

An anti-fascist political group aborted plans to disrupt a campus event that promoted Free Speech rights and featured two prominent conservative commentators.

Key Players

Dave Rubin is the host of The Rubin Report, a politically conservative talk show that airs on YouTube.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank.

Peter Boghossian is a professor of philosophy at Portland State University (PSU).

Further Details

Activists belonging to an anti-fascist group called Rose City Antifa aborted plans to disrupt a panel discussion titled “The New Campus Thought Police” at Portland State University’s Hoffman Hall. The event, which took place on January 27, 2017, was attended by approximately 300 students and featured YouTube political talk show host Dave Rubin, AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, and PSU philosophy Professor Peter Boghossian, reports The College Fix.

The panel was sponsored by the Center for Inquiry Portland, an organization that says it seeks to “foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values,” as well as Freethinkers of PSU, which calls itself “a student group that promotes secularism and free thought on campus.” The scholars’ discussion presented an “honest and unfiltered conversation about the controversial subjects of free speech and political correctness on college campuses,” according to a Facebook page promoting it.

Prior to the event, a Facebook group affiliated with Rose City Antifa launched a “phone jam” campaign to flood PSU officials with complaints about the event and lobbied PSU’s Philosophy Department to suspend the discussion, reports the Vanguard, a PSU campus publication. Antifa suggested on social media platforms that the conversation would disempower “women, queer people, trans people, Muslims and POC (or people of color)” and argued, “While the PSU Free thinker’s certainly claims to be a secular humanist group after the incident at Williams for free speech; the decision to host an event mocking the need for safe spaces when women, LGBTQ people, and POC are watching their basic rights evaporate by the hour under the Trump regime shows that in fact this group has a reactionary agenda. Depite [sic] the fantasy of white male victimhood at the hands of the ‘PC Police’, the actual power dynamics in our society are exactly the opposite.” Rose City Antifa also posted a statement allegedly from the Chair of PSU’s Philosophy Department, which stated that although the department disapproved of the event, it could not shut it down. Noah Sharpsteen, an adjunct professor at PSU and the Philosophy Department office manager, later stated that the department had issued no such statement, the Vanguard reports.

On the day of the event, Antifa reversed its position and discouraged members from interfering with the discussion. The Vanguard reports that “there was no known presence of Rose City Antifa at the speaking engagement.”


Event Took Place As Scheduled

During the event, a small number of audience members shouted at the speakers who advocated for universal Free Speech. Outside Hoffman Hall, a small group of peaceful protesters gathered and passed out pamphlets containing information about safe spaces and micro aggressions.

External References:

‘New campus thought police’: Freethinkers of PSU present dialogue on free speech, The Vanguard

Free speech wins: In Portland of all places, Antifa halts plans to shut down ‘thought police’ talk, The College Fix

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

August 22, 2017