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Georgetown Law Center

Georgetown Law Center Prohibits Students From Political Speech ‘Over The Internet’

Of all places to stifle free speech, the least likely suspect would be a prestigious law school a stone’s throw or so away from the epicenter of democracy and free government. But that’s what’s been happening at Georgetown University’s Law Center since last September. According to a report from¬†The College Fix, law students supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have been prohibited from “distributing campaign materials and primary voting information.”
Earlier this month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor. One section of the letter read:
“An [Office of Student Life]¬†representative asked the students to cease their activities and remove their materials because engaging in such campaign-related activities was not permitted. After the students asked the representative to confirm that they were not allowed to engage in this activity on campus, Coordinator of Student Organizations Kenrick Roberts came out to the table and confirmed that campaign-related activities were not permitted on campus.”
The reason for the rule, according to Georgetown Law officials, is the school could lose it’s tax-exempt status if students are engaging in political activities. According to the Georgetown Law Student Organization Policy on Partisan Political Activities, students cannot even use the school’s internet to communicate political ideologies. This statement comes from the Student Organization:
“[A]s it relates specifically to candidates for office, campaigning and solicitation, including transmission of campaign materials over the internet, leaflet distribution, and display of posters, is not allowed anywhere on Law Center property or using University servers or equipment.”
In FIRE’s letter, they make the correction.
“Georgetown Law fails to recognize the distinction between institutional expression and that of individual students and student organizations, which are strongly presumed to speak only for themselves and not their institutions. Provided that students and student organizations comply with relevant policies applied in a content-neutral manner to all individuals and groups, the university does not face a threat to its tax-exempt status by permitting them to engage in partisan political speech.”
A similar case happened within the University of Wisconsin system and FIRE pointed it out in their letter.
“The Court noted that when speech is ‘financed by tuition dollars,’ with ‘the University and its officials . . . responsible for its content,’ then it ‘might be evaluated on the premise that the government itself is the speaker,’ but it may not be evaluated this way when the expressive activity springs from student groups funded by a student activity fee intended for ‘the sole purpose of facilitating the free and open exchange of ideas by, and among, its students.'”
Source: The College Fix

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