Last year, when Kaitlyn Mullen, a 20-year-old student at the University of Nebraska, set a table near the Student Union to recruit new members for her conservative group, Turning Point USA, she received a severe backlash from campus faculty.
A graduate teaching assistant, Courtney Lawton, flipped off Mullen and called her a “neo-fascist,” saying among other things that the student “wants to destroy public schools, public universities,” according to Fox News.
A professor, Amanda Gailey, also protested Mullen’s group, standing farther away with a sign that said: “Turning Point: Please put me on your watch list. Prof. Amanda Gailey.”
It reduced Mullen to tears. She went home.
In Gailey’s defense, she said, “I brought a polite sign, stood silently and apart from everyone else… I oppose that organization (Turning Point USA) but I do not oppose her right to advocate for it and I would not harass a student. If someone encounters opposition, that does not mean their First Amendment rights have been violated.”
But a growing number of conservative lawmakers feel that they are. In several states, including Florida, Nebraska and Texas, lawmakers are introducing bills to address free speech measures on college campuses. In 10 other states, similar measures are pending.
“Free speech is under pressure,” said Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank. “We’re seeing a national push-back against censorship and the shout-downs on campuses.”
“It makes sense that it’s Republicans introducing laws, because they’re the ones whose views are out of fashion,” he added.
One of the problems that those measures seek to address is the targeting of conservative speakers who have been disinvited from campuses across the country. Lindsay cited a 2016 study that a total of 36 speakers fit into this group, and said “pretty much all were conservative,” according to Fox News.
Lindsay said furthermore that parallels can be drawn to the free speech movement of the 1960s, “when it was the left fighting for freedom of speech at colleges.”
In some states, conservatives have managed to get a foothold on the issue. Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin have already passed measures for campus free speech. Part of those measures would allow students to express their views in public areas, rather than in designated places limited to “free speech” zones.
In recent news, a family is suing Starbucks after their drink had a barista’s blood in it.