University of Oklahoma says student government cannot discriminate against conservatives
UPDATE (November 19, 2020): In a big win for conservative students, the University of Oklahoma declared that its Student Government Association cannot unconstitutionally discriminate against members of Turning Point USA or other conservatives on campus. In response to SLF’s letter last week, the University admitted that SGA lacks authority to pass unconstitutional resolutions. If SGA tries to do so, the resolutions will be vetoed by the University President.
“Although the actions of SGA members over the course of this semester have been disappointing, we are pleased to know that the University community understands the importance of free and open discourse and will do everything in its power to protect it,” SLF writes in a follow-up letter to the school. In the letter, SLF also commends the University for taking reports of spitting, assault, and abusive conduct seriously by encouraging students to report attacks.
“This is a huge step in the right direction at OU,” SLF General Counsel Kim Hermann states. “SGA is being held accountable for its intimidating behavior against conservatives.”
Ironically, the University administration now serves as a mediator between conservative groups like TPUSA and student government—when it should be the other way around.
“It is an odd twist of events,” Hermann notes. “University administrators are often the worst offenders when it comes to violating students’ First Amendment rights. But at OU, conservatives find themselves relying on administrators for support and protection, instead of their own student government. We are hopeful this is a sign that the tides are changing on college campuses."
NORMAN, OK (November 6, 2020): Imagine walking to class on your college campus when a peer recognizes you. But instead of waving hello, he spits on you. Why? Because you're a conservative.
This sounds too shocking to be true, but sadly it is the reality at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Conservative students on campus are consistently assaulted, threatened and harassed. For instance, in addition to a conservative student being spat on while walking to class, another student was called a "Nazi Klan b***h."
Today, SLF sent a letter to the OU Student Government Association (SGA) demanding that it do its job of protecting the First Amendment rights of all students on campus. SLF observes in the letter that members of SGA are actively working to silence conservative groups. For example, they have threatened to revoke funding of groups like Turning Point USA (TPUSA) because they dislike their views. They apply unconstitutional reservation policies to conservative groups, but not others. And when they learned that TPUSA invited conservative speaker Ann Coulter to speak on campus, they did nothing to disavow threats of violence directed at TPUSA's members or to ensure that their speech would be protected. SLF writes that even the President of SGA "made it clear that he firmly opposed TPUSA’s decision to bring Coulter to campus. He claimed that the event 'benefited not one student' and accused TPUSA and Coulter of having 'hateful ideologies.'"
"Over the past year, there has been an astonishing rise in attacks against conservative students on college campuses from their own representatives on student government," says SLF Attorney Cece O'Leary. "But just like administrators, student governments are bound by the Constitution and must treat all viewpoints equally."
In the letter, SLF warns that SGA cannot engage in viewpoint or content-based discrimination against their peers. It writes that SGA's consistent actions to undermine conservative student organizations "can be described as nothing more than yet another scheme to remove TPUSA and other conservative groups from campus or, at the very least, to chill their expression."
Through its 1A Project, SLF continues its role of holding all government actors accountable on college campuses, and it will continue to monitor the situation at OU.