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Pushback: Students win major settlement with college for denying them their free speech rights

Chike Uzuegbunam: winner against college censorship
Chike Uzuegbunam: A winner against college censorship

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Because the Supreme Court had ruled 8-1 in March 2021 that Georgia Gwinnett College and its officials could be held liable for damages for illegally denying several religious students their first amendment rights, the university last week finally settled the five-year-long case in favor of those students, paying nominal damages and attorneys’ fees totaling more than $800,000.

The case began when the university in 2016 twice prevented two students, Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford, from talking to other students about their religious faith on campus. The first time the university claimed that, according to its speech zone policies, the students could only do so after getting permission from the school and then limiting their speech to a tiny free speech zone on campus. When Uzuegbunam followed this policy, school officials then banned him from speaking entirely because someone had complained. From the Supreme Court’s March 2021 ruling [pdf]:

Twenty minutes after Uzuegbunam began speaking on the day allowed by his permit, another campus police officer again told him to stop, this time saying that people had complained about his speech. Campus policy prohibited using the free speech zone to say anything that “disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).” The officer told Uzuegbunam that his speech violated this policy because it had led to complaints. The officer threatened Uzuegbunam with disciplinary action if he continued. Uzuegbunam again complied with the order to stop speaking.

Essentially, the college had declared that it had the right to censor all speech, based simply upon a single anonymous complaint. It also claimed that no one was allowed to publicly express their opinions without first getting the college’s permission. As Uzuegbunam himself said, “I have to ask permission to exercise my first amendment rights? That’s not freedom of speech.”

Once Uzuegbunam sued, the university tried to avoid liability by changing this illegal free speech policy, claiming the case was now moot. The Supreme Court essentially laughed this claim out of the court room. From the court’s 8-1 opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas:

For purposes of this appeal, it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because “every violation [of a right] imports damage,” nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.

While the college was forced to pay $800K, it appears the college officials responsible for creating and enforcing its speech code have avoided any personal punishment. Moreover, their effort to silence this religious speech actually succeeded. Uzuegbunam was not only gagged from speaking on campus, it took five years to win his case. By now I would expect he is no longer a student at the college, and his opportunity there to speak is long gone.

Thus, do not expect this case to change much in academia, where almost every university has some variation of Georgia Gwinnett College’s speech code. The colleges know they can make life very difficult for those whom they wish to silence — without much cost — and will continue to do so until these institutions and the individuals in charge are finally made to pay, in large amounts.

Uzuegbunam’s win here however does continue the string of victories in the courts against these illegal speech codes. Eventually, these leftist totalitarian colleges are either going to have face reality and begin supporting free speech, or they will die.

Personally, I expect them to die, as their close-minded dedication to their leftist ideology seems unbending. And that death will be a good thing. Modern academia is no longer doing good, but instead indoctrinating its students with some of the most evil ideas imaginable. It is time for it to go.

Conscious Choice cover

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Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

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9 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    “For purposes of this appeal, it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because “every violation [of a right] imports damage,” nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.”

    This minor, but shouldn’t that be “complete” and “imparts”?

    And, of course, hearty congratulations to Mr. Uzuegbunam, He apparently, actually learned something in college, his constitutional rights.

  • Col Beausabre

    Two points

    1) That an American “college” should feel it needs to set up a “free speech” zone (which implies that speech is censored elsewhere on campus) explains a lot about what’s wrong with “higher education” in this country. Back when I rode my triceratops to class, the entire campus was a free speech zone. In fact, we were taught that free and lively debate was a characteristic of American institutions of higher education

    2) As an old Army officer, I am disturbed that Army ROTC continued to be offered and is still offered at such a place. I am sending a letter of protest to the CG of US Army Cadet Command with copies to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army. I doubt they will have any effect – probably ignored or, at most bucked to a junior member of his staff to write a mealymouthed reply – but feel I must make my voice heard about a place “educating” future officers of an Army that supposedly exists to protect the First Amendment. After all, the oath of office all members of the Army take begins with “I swear I will protect, uphold and defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States”

  • Call Me Ishmael

    “Back when I rode my triceratops to class …”

    You managed to domesticate a triceratops?! How?!

  • Col Beausabre

    Petted it, fed it plenty of food it liked

  • sippin_bourbon

    Interesting.

    The court was 8-1. The sole dissent was Roberts.

  • Gryunt Scarhide

    “Campus policy prohibited using the free speech zone to say anything that “disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).””

    The heckler’s veto enshrined as a college’s avowed “free speech” policy. As with everything the Feds touch, it’s turned into nothing more than a sinkhole for billions in made-up money, although one must admit it is serving the intended purpose: making young people dumb, dependent and delicate.

    Burn it down, BURN IT ALL DOWN.

  • GWB

    will continue to do so until these institutions and the individuals in charge are finally made to pay, in large amounts.
    ^^THIS^^

    Col Beausabre
    June 28, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    This minor, but shouldn’t that be “complete” and “imparts”?
    Actually, no. It was a completed violation, not ongoing. They actually did gag him, not just threaten harm (to his rights).
    And I think “imports” is in the sense of “there is great import to this action”.
    Legal people talk funny sometimes.

  • GWB

    What did I do wrong that my comment went to moderated land? (Or, so it seems.)

  • GWB: your comment did not go to moderation. It probably just took some time to post.

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