UGA Campus Speech Jeopardy: SLF Demands Action to Protect 1st Amendment
ATLANTA/ATHENS, GA: Representing a group of concerned students, Southeastern Legal Foundation submitted a letter to the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association demanding that it immediately rescind its unconstitutional resolutions chilling free speech on campus.
Resolutions 32-06 and 32-07 are aimed at stifling displays on campus that “could have . . . triggering effects” on students. The new Resolutions require students to publicize their planned expression in advance through a weekly student newsletter. The Resolutions also compel students to describe their “intent” behind their expression. This raises serious First Amendment concerns because it paves the way for viewpoint and content-based discrimination. The Resolutions are also unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because they lack descriptive language that informs students about how to comply with the policy and/or what consequences they face for failing to comply. Finally, SGA unconstitutionally chills student expression because it has condemned “distressing” speech and strongly suggests that any form of offensive speech violates the student Code of Conduct.
Public colleges across America are scaring students into silence. And shockingly, the attacks on the First Amendment are not coming from administrators alone. Instead, they are coming from the students themselves. The most recent attack has been launched by the Student Government Association at UGA and its newest resolutions which threaten to punish students if their speech “could have . . . triggering effects” on other students or cause anyone “distress.”
As we have seen on other campuses, resolutions like these force students to self-censor because they fear backlash from peers and administrators. UGA students are left wondering what other potentially “offensive” topics are off-limits and could amount to serious sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion. As SLF reiterates through our 1A Project, the remedy for offensive or hurtful speech is always more speech, not enforced silence. SLF reminds SGA that this rings especially true on college campuses, where ideas must be shared rather than stifled. We hope SGA will respect the rights of all UGA students.
Click here for SLF Demand Letter to UGA Student Government Association
Click here for KFUO radio interview with SLF attorney CeCe Howard