by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column focuses on the federal government’s response to recent efforts to curtail free speech on university campuses.
[O]n September 26, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech at Georgetown University. In it, he stated that the Department of Justice would be taking a vigorous role in countering the assaults on freedom of speech that have become increasingly common on college campuses. He said to the students, “We hope you will take part in the right of every American: the free, robust, and sometimes contentious exchange of ideas. As you exercise these rights, realize how precious, how rare, and how fragile they are. In most societies throughout history… such rights do not exist.”
However, the right of free speech is increasingly under attack on American college campuses, Sessions continued. He pointed to the case of Kellogg Community College in Michigan, where students were arrested for peacefully advocating liberty and the ideals of the Constitution to passersby. (You can read about the case here.)
“The American university was once the center of academic freedom—a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” Sessions said. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”
What does Sessions intend to do about that?
He said that the Department of Justice has filed a Statement of Interest in a case involving a student at Georgia Gwinnett College who maintains that his First Amendment rights were violated when the school confined students to a tiny “free speech zone” if they wanted to express themselves. (He wanted to preach his Christian beliefs.)
Furthermore, “students were required to obtain prior authorization from campus officials, to limit their expressive activity to a specified date and time, and to comply with the Student Code of Conduct’s prohibition of speech that ‘disturbs the comfort of persons(s).’” Obviously, Sessions finds the college’s regulation of free speech to be unacceptable.