FAN 166 (First Amendment News) Deleted Passages: VA ACLU abandons key portions of its original statement regarding William & Mary controversy
[Earlier this month] a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union saw her chance to speak about the First Amendment squashed by students chagrined by the actions of her employer. — Virginia Gazette, Oct. 6, 2017 The website of the ACLU of Virginia contains a statement by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, its Executive Director. That statement pertains to the recent controversy at William and Mary. Below are portions of that statement, including passages in red that were apparently contained in the original version but no longer exist in the current one.
“The ACLU of Virginia was invited by the College of William & Mary Alma Mater Productions to speak to students on Sept. 27 about their First Amendment rights, and, particularly, their rights at protests and demonstrations. We were pleased to accept the invitation and looked forward to making the presentation and answering questions on a wide range of topics. We were disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to provide the information that the students asked us to present nor to answer the tough questions we expected the student organizers and audience members to ask. . . .”
“The ACLU of Virginia supports unequivocally the freedom of professors, students and administrators to teach, learn, discuss and debate or to express ideas, opinions or feelings in classroom, public or private discourse.”
“Disruption that prevents a speaker from speaking, and audience members from hearing the speaker, is not constitutionally protected speech even on a public college campus subject to the First Amendment; it is a classic example of a heckler’s veto, and, appropriately, can be prohibited by a college student code of conduct as it is at William and Mary. As a government entity, a public college like William and Mary has an obligation to protect the freedom of the speaker to speak and not to allow one group of people to shout down or seek to intimidate other speakers or members of the audience who wish to hear the speaker from exercising their own free speech rights. This is true regardless of what individuals or groups are speaking, protesting or counter-protesting.” [This passage survives in a blog post by Sam Harris.] “The ACLU of Virginia has been and will continue to be unwavering in its commitment to campus free speech. We are equally committed to ensuring that all universities take appropriate steps to ensure that the environment on their campuses fosters tolerance and mutual respect among members of the campus community, and an environment in which all students can exercise their right to participate meaningfully in campus life without being subject to discrimination. . . . ” “What happened at William and Mary on Sept. 27 is a part of a larger national trend that is challenging campus leaders across the country to find the right formula for assuring that critical community conversations can take place in a culture of inquiry consistent with a true learning environment. Actions that bully, intimidate or disrupt must not be without consequences in any such formula.” [This passage survives in an Inside Higher Ed story by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf. Though that story contained a link to the passage in red quoted above, the contents of that link have apparently been changed since it no longer contains the lines quoted above.]
Deleted passages: By all accounts, the passages in red were contained in an earlier version of the ACLU’s statement but do not appear in the current version.
VA ACLU Responds: When asked about the above, Bill Farrar, Director of Strategic Communications, responded: “We revised our statement based on internal feeedback from our colleagues.” He agreed that the deleted passages no longer reflect the Virginia ACLU’s current position. When asked if the National ACLU was consulted, Mr. Farrar said it was not.
Hecklers shout down California attorney general
This from Adam Steinbaugh over at FIRE: “Last week, Whittier College — my alma mater — hosted California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in a question-and-answer session organized by Ian Calderon, the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.”
“They tried to, anyway. The event ended early after pro-Trump hecklers, upset about Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over DACA, continuously shouted slogans and insults at Becerra and Calderon. A group affiliated with the hecklers later boasted that the speakers were ‘SHOUTED DOWN BY FED-UP CALIFORNIANS” and that the “meeting became so raucous that it ended about a half hour early.'”
“The event, held in Whittier College’s Shannon Center theater, was free and open to members of the community, and featured introductions from both Whittier’s president and student body president. Becerra and Calderon were to have an hour-long question-and-answer session using audience questions randomly selected from a basket. As soon as they began the discussion, however, hecklers decked in ‘Make America Great Again’ hats began a continuous and persistent chorus of boos, slogans, and insults.”
“Video captured by an alumnus captures the difficulty of hearing the discussion”:
“Video uploaded by two of the hecklers, Arthur C. Schaper and Harim Uzziel, captures the entirety of the affair, complete with chanted slogans and insults, such as ‘lock him up,’ ‘build that wall,’ ‘obey the law,’ ‘respect our president,’ ‘Americans first,’ and ‘You must respect our president!’ It also captures audience members repeatedly asking the hecklers to stop, and campus security officials approaching the group. Another video posted by “We the People Rising” also captured much of the disruption”:
“Calderon asked the audience to hold applause or booing, remarking: ‘It’s important that we have a productive conversation here.’ Becerra said that he thought the First Amendment to be a “precious thing,” but said he doubted the audience could hear him speak. The event, scheduled for an hour, concluded after about 34 minutes.”
“Schaper, a conservative columnist, is known for leading disruptions targeting Democratic officials, and was recently charged with disrupting a public meeting. For example, he disrupted a congresswoman’s ‘Know Your Rights’ forum, intended to give information to undocumented immigrants. ‘It was offensive,’ Schaper told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. ‘[The congresswoman] took an oath to uphold [the] Constitution, and now she’s sponsoring a town hall that teaches illegal aliens about rights they don’t have.’ . . . “
Coming Soon: The First Amendment in the Regulatory State — Research Roundtable Read More