SNHU under fire for anti-free speech policy banning ‘controversial’ speakers
FIRE, a free speech nonprofit, said Southern New Hampshire University is trying to limit free speech on campus with its new policy of reviewing and approving all lecturers. invited to school.
When Southern New Hampshire University College’s new Republican president Kyle Urban asked the school how to invite conservative speakers to campus, he was told that all speakers must first be vetted by the college to s ensure the guests “are not as controversial as they would be”. attract unwanted protesters to campus. University administrators told Urban that the school “invites[s] discussion as long as it is friendly.
Philadelphia-based FIRE is now involved, calling on the school to respect its own free speech policies.
“The SNHU is thus betraying its own promises of freedom of expression by requiring a preliminary examination of the speakers. To be clear, “speech is not free when authorities must approve speakers and views expressed,” FIRE’s Sabrina Conza wrote this week to SNHU associate general counsel Even Lowery.
According to Conza, Urban asked administrators to invite guest speakers, expecting information on mechanisms for bringing people to the school to brainstorm ideas in public. Instead, Urban was told that school staff had to “substantially” review and approve all proposed speakers before they were invited.
Conza says SNHU is now violating its promise to students to protect free speech on campus.
“SNHU unequivocally promises students an environment that supports “the ideals of freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of the individual,” writes Conza. “Having made these strong promises, the university cannot set them aside when the expression in question could be controversial.”
Conza wrote that the approval process would only serve to prevent people from being invited by students or professors to speak on campus for fear of offending a group and causing protests.
“SNHU has stated that it is ‘confident’ that its ‘policies for speakers and political events on campus comply with state and federal laws and allow for the free flow of information and ideas,'” Conza writes. “FIRE is much less confident.”
FIRE became involved last year after allied threats from protesters put an end to a planned speech by conservative lecturer Andy Ngo at Dartmouth College.
Dartmouth canceled the Jan. 20 event hosted by campus chapters of College Republicans, Turning Point USA, and Network of Enlightened Women, forcing it online based on “regarding the information” of the Hannover police.
However, documents obtained by both the NH Journal and FIRE indicate that police never thought the planned protest posed a credible threat.
Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis told FIRE in a letter that his department “has not made a recommendation to Dartmouth College regarding the January 20 event.”
Dartmouth responded to the controversy by charging the Dartmouth College Republicans Club a $3,600 security bill.
Conza said when college administrators decide who is allowed to speak, the free exchange of ideas is compromised.
“As university officials determine what opinions are worth sharing, as SNHU administrators claim the power to do here, students and faculty will invite fewer speakers to campus. In turn, fewer controversial and non-controversial speakers will come, and fewer points of view will be shared, all at the expense of the campus community. We once again urge SNHU to back down,” Conza wrote.