Phi Beta Cons

Getting it Right at Auburn

Pro-life students — particularly those students who call attention to the graphic horror of abortion — tend to face consistent free-speech challenges. Their protests are moved without notice, hecklers surround their displays and block access, faculty members or administrators sometimes steal their materials, and they are even on occasion threatened with expulsion for merely expressing their views (Heather Hacker at ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom has written a nice summary of recent incidents).

But in the midst of this campaign of exclusion and persecution, there are schools who get things right. A friend forwarded me this note from Auburn University’s dean of students. The dean was apparently writing in response to complaints made against a Justice for All display put up by Auburn Students for Life:

In light of the expressions of concern over the current displays around campus, I wanted to clarify a couple of things:

1. The AU Students for Life is sponsoring the Justice for All graphic anti-abortion displays starting today Wednesday through Thursday, March 25-26, 2009. These displays will be located at the end of Thach Concourse, at the end of Haley Concourse close to Quad Drive, and below the Student Center plaza.

2. Students for Life has a permit for the displays. They are exercising their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Auburn University does not support or endorse the message presented by Justice for All.

3. I realize that many of you might disagree with the material and the way it is presented. Again, we do not endorse this approach nor the material it promotes. Auburn University is required by law, as a public inistituion, to make public space available for citizens/groups to exercise their constitutional rights. That is the long and short of the matter for Auburn. I am sure we will have street preachers and others following this display later this week or the next and as long as they are in the public space, they are entitled to be here.

Thanks for letting me know how you feel. I appreciate it.

I particularly like the dean’s clear statement regarding the First Amendment: “Auburn University is required by law, as a public institution, to make public space available for citizens/groups to exercise their constitutional rights. This is the long and short of the matter for Auburn.” Nicely put. The First Amendment makes this an easy call — private citizens can protest public policies, even when those protests offend some members of the community.

Well done, Auburn. Now please do something about your absurd speech code.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Religion

The Catholic Church’s Rotherham

‘We are deeply saddened.” So begin the many perfunctory statements of many Catholic bishops today in response to the Pennsylvania grand-jury report detailing how priests in that state abused children and how bishops shuffled these priests around. What deeply saddens these men? The rape of children, the ... Read More
Elections

My Journey into the Heart of Obama-Trump Country

After eight years of displeasure with Barack Obama’s presidency, Carla Johnson was ready for a drastic change. The 41-year-old lab technician from Cresco, Iowa, fell for Donald Trump very early in the 2016 primary season. She loved his “take-no-[sh**]” style, his conservative stances on gun control and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Andrew Cuomo Was Never That Great

Governor Cuomo is shouting again. It must be time for reelection. Queen Victoria complained of William Ewart Gladstone that he “speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting.” Andrew Cuomo has the opposite problem: He addresses public meetings as if trying to convince a recalcitrant octogenarian that the fire ... Read More