Greenville, North Carolina: At East Carolina University (ECU), hundreds of student athletes, coaches, and members of the faculty and staff gathered on campus for a protest. The only problem: ECU has banned all gatherings over 50 people. So why are some students allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not others? SLF posed this question today in a demand letter to the University. In the letter, SLF seeks clarification about ECU’s COVID policies, especially when it comes to student speech. ECU has punished nearly 20 students for violating social distancing and gathering policies. But when dozens of students protested racial inequality, ECU looked the other way.
“This is blatant viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” states SLF attorney Cece O’Leary. “A university can’t stifle speech in some ways while promoting it in others. All students have a right to engage in civil discourse.”
SLF pointed out that by taking a position in favor of the student protest, the University has unconstitutionally chilled the expression of other students. ECU has drawn a line in the sand about the speech it will tolerate, and it has shown that any other views are unwelcome.