Conservative, College Student Silenced on Campus

Are You a Conservative College Student? You Have Rights.

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If you are a student on a college campus, there’s a very high likelihood you’re having your free speech rights violated — especially if you’re a conservative.

Yesterday, on the first day of #CPAC2017, I attended a lecture called “Understanding Your Rights On Campus” given by Casey Mattox, senior counsel and Director of the Center for Academic Freedom at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF has an extensive history defending free speech rights on college campuses successfully, with more than 300 victories in tow so far. But like LeBron James, Tom Brady, and the Chicago Cubs, they’re not done yet.

“Your job on campus is not just to defend your own First Amendment rights and have an ability to speak freely,” Mattox told an audience of mostly high school and college students. “Your job is to educate your fellow students. If you want a free country, if you want one where the First Amendment is defended, if you want smaller government, if you want government taking less of people’s money — you have to start on your campus.”

The unfortunate truth is that most Americans are not specifically familiar with the First Amendment. According to a poll from the First Amendment Center, when asked to name the five specific freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment:

  • 54 percent of Americans could name the “Freedom of Speech”
  • 17 percent of Americans could name the “Freedom of Religion”
  • 12 percent of Americans could name the “Right to Assemble”
  • 11 percent of Americans could name the “Freedom of the Press”
  • 2 percent of Americans could name the “Right to Petition”
  • Shockingly, 39 percent of Americans could not name any of the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.

Given this lack of understanding when it comes to the First Amendment, it should not be a surprise that totalitarian progressives running college campuses routinely seek to curtail students’ freedoms and often get away with it.

De-regulating Your College Campus

The idea that a college campus is somehow different from the rest of America — and so therefore free speech doesn’t apply — is ludicrous, and has repeatedly been proven wrong in court. As Mattox said in his lecture, “The First Amendment isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law. Like gravity.” The law still applies on your college campus… even in California.

Here are some First Amendment violations Mattox urged students to look out for as part of efforts to “de-regulate your college campus”:

Free Speech Zones
If there are places on campus where you are “allowed to speak freely” — i.e. insinuating that there are places where you cannot — this is likely unconstitutional and a violation of your First Amendment rights.
Speech Codes

Mattox implored the students in attendance to do the following:

  • Go to your school’s website.
  • Find the search function.
  • Look up “Code of Conduct.” Or try “harassment,” “expression,” or “offensive.”
  • Look for any policies infringing on free speech rights.

These speech codes are never called “speech codes,” but that is effectively what they are. Mattox pointed to one at Penn State which said, “Intolerance Will Not Be Tolerated.” Penn State eventually changed it after ADF beat them senseless in court.

Security Fees

These seemingly innocent fees are another way college campuses are attempting to silence speech — especially conservative speech.“If you’re being asked to pay a security fee in order to bring in a speaker, there is a high degree of likelihood that that is an unconstitutional fee. Don’t pay the fee, contact us,” Mattox said.

The idea behind a security fee is that, if a group brings in a speaker that is controversial and other students decide to protest outside or block entrance into the event, the group bringing in the speaker should be responsible to pay for security. This, of course, limits free speech by discouraging groups from bringing in controversial speakers at all — and in some cases, it prevents them from bringing in a speaker by charging a security fee the student group cannot afford. And, ironically, if the student group does pony up for security, in many cases the security will refuse to do their job at all!

Mattox showed the students a video of this phenomenon taking place at a Ben Shapiro lecture at Cal State University Los Angeles (CSULA) last year:

I don’t know about you, but that video upset me greatly. The idea that free speech is being shut down on college campuses is truly un-American.

Thankfully, we have groups like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Whether they are fighting for religious freedom in the cases of Barronelle Stutzman and Donald and Ellen Vander Boon, or whether they are defending the freedom of speech on your local college campus, ADF has proven itself to be absolutely critical in the fight against totalitarian progressivism.

If you think your free speech rights are being violated on campus, stop what you’re doing and be sure to contact ADF for help.

Photo credit: Jennifer Moo via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Jon Schweppe

Jon Schweppe is the Director of Government Affairs for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe