Attorney General Jeff Sessions had some strong words for college students all around the country during his address to Georgetown University Law Center.
“Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack,” he said. “The American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas. But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”
Dozens of protestors dropped down on one knee prior to Sessions starting his speech. Demonstrators included students and faculty members at Georgetown Law, more than 50 of whom signed an open letter opposing the AG’s policies. Ironically, their display demonstrated exactly what the nation’s top cop was referring to.
Colleges Too Tolerant of ‘Heckler’s Veto’
According to Sessions, American colleges are too tolerant when it comes to the ‘heckler’s veto.’ He states that, “This is not right. This is not the great tradition of America. And, yet, school administrators bend to this behavior. In effect, they coddle and encourage it.”
Robert Shibley, the executive director of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), strongly agreed.
“As campuses struggle with an uptick in violence in response to controversial speech,” he said, concurring with Sessions. “We are glad to see the Department of Justice bring much-needed attention to this issue.”
To illustrate the wide-ranging threat to free expression at America’s universities and colleges, Sessions pointed out several instances involving restrictive speech codes and other notable speech-related incidents that occurred on college campuses.
Let’s take a look at how the attorney general laid down the law.
The Charles Murray Incident
Charles Murray was scheduled to speak at Vermont’s Middlebury College. However, due to student protests, Murray’s speech was cut short.
The protest got out of hand, which led to a faculty member sustaining injuries. Furthermore, as Murray and his faculty interviewer left the school, they were attacked by several masked demonstrators. Once they finally reached their vehicle and got inside, in addition to jumping on its hood, the protestors began to rock the car back and forth.
Unfortunately, Murray’s faculty interviewer suffered a concussion during this confrontation. Eventually, Middlebury did punish 67 students for the roles they played on the day of Murray’s visit.
Chike Uzuegbunam v. Stanley C. “Stas” Preczewski
An evangelical Christian student has filed suit against Georgia Gwinnett College: Chike Uzuegbunam’s lawsuit claims that The Freedom of Expression Policy at Georgia Gwinnett College prohibits him from saying anything that could disturb, offend or cause discomfort to anyone who hears him, that is, unless he is in one of the free-speech zones on campus. Should Uzuegbunam disregard this policy, he will be punished for disorderly conduct.
Free-speech zones are small areas on campus where students are permitted to speak freely. Georgia Gwinnett College has two of these zones; however, students are required to reserve these zones at least three days in advance. These free-speech zones have started to pop up on college campuses all over the country. Attorney General Sessions condemns these zones.
Georgia Gwinnett College’s Freedom of Expression Policy
The Freedom of Expression Policy refers to the procedure students must follow to request use of the free-speech area. Besides submitting the request form, students must provide the college with all the publicity materials that will be utilized as well as information about all activities that will be performed in the designated free-speech zone.
Statement of Interest
As he vows to support the Georgia lawsuit and declares his intention to support similar cases, Sessions has taken a cue from the Obama administration, drawing on a legal tool that is referred to as a Statement of Interest. This tool is typically reserved for matters pertaining to diplomacy and national security, and allows the federal government to interject itself into private disputes.
On the same day that Attorney General Sessions spoke at Georgetown University Law Center, The Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in the Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski case.
Attorney General Sessions reminded the students how precious and rare their rights are. He stated that in most of the societies throughout history, expressing unconventional opinions or openly criticizing the government could lead to time in jail, or worse.
Americans have a lot to learn from the attorney general’s statements.
~ Conservative Zone