New York College Under Fire After Targeting Conservative Students and Groups

We have been discussing how universities are remaining silent as student governments limit rights of free speech and association, including the impeachment of conservative students.   Now, students at Skidmore College have reportedly barred fellow students from starting a campus chapter of the conservative group Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). In Rochester Institute of Technology, the student government has impeached student Senator Jacob Custer for defending campus police officers wearing Thin Blue Line masks. In both controversies, there are appeals or reviews being pursued but students were subjected to weeks of abusive campaigns for the exercise of their free speech and associational rights.

Skidmore has been previously in the news as a campus with a growing anti-free speech movement, including an unsuccessful effort to fire  professors for attending a police rally. There is a growing threat to free speech posed by student governments curtailing free speech under the guise of self-governance.  For some universities, student governments can accomplish indirectly what they cannot legally or politically accomplish directly.

That danger is evident in the account of Hannah Davis of how she was the subject of a campus campaign and petition to prevent her founding a YAL chapter. According to the Albany Times Union, the Skidmore Student Government Association told Davis she could not establish a YAL chapter because the formation of the group triggered “concerns of hate speech and … students on campus feel unsafe.” 

According to the Times Union, the anti-YAL petition was authored anonymously and denounced YAL as a springboard “for hate speech and bigotry disguised as political discourse.” It also claimed that “Skidmore has become increasingly hostile to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and marginalized students. It is no coincidence that this club is being proposed following months of bold activism by students of color.”

Skidmore College president Mark Connor said: “The student leaders whom our students have elected as their representatives have the right to vote to decide the outcome of this process I encourage all members of our community to exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of association and to engage with each other with patience, courtesy and respect for one another.”  Connor’s statement is disappointingly vague. He added:

“These fundamental rights apply to all, regardless of political persuasion or other differences, including views and beliefs. The rare exception would be hate speech, in which violence is clearly the goal, which would not be tolerated in our community. As always, I encourage all members of our community to exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of association and to engage with each other with patience, courtesy and respect for one another.”

There is nothing that one could object to in that statement but also little worth repeating. YAL is clearly a very conservative organization that is involved in both political and academic events.  The question is whether Connor would have been more proactive and clear if this was a campus effort to ban other more popular groups. Connor said that the conservative students could appeal but universities need to speak early and strongly in support of free speech and associational rights in such controversies.

In attacks on professors, we have also seen a sharp difference in the level of support voiced by university officials depending on the content of the viewpoints. Indeed, we have seen schools refuse to apologize when they effectively fueled false allegations.

When conservative faculty or controversial speakers are targeted, few officials or fellow professors have stepped forward to denounce such campaigns. The same is not true when controversies have arisen for statements on the left. We have been discussing efforts to fire professors who voice dissenting views on various issues including an effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago as well as a leading linguistics professor at Harvard and a literature professor at Penn. Sites like Lawyers, Guns, and Money feature writers like Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos who call for the firing of those with opposing views (including myself).  Such campaigns have targeted teachers and students who contest the evidence of systemic racism in the use of lethal force by police or offer other opposing views in current debates over the pandemic, reparations, electoral fraud, or other issues.

Over at RIT, the students went the impeachment route to punish opposing viewpoints. The controversy arose in late January and students sought to impeach Custer due to his arguments on the student government’s messaging app in support of a campus officer who wore a Thin Blue Line face mask. This has been a controversy on other campuses where some symbols are favored while others are disfavored.  For free speech advocates, the issue is not the inherent meaning or value but the basis of discriminating on the basis of content in speech regulation.

Custer defended the right to wear such masks, writing:

 “Wearing such masks if they want to is not counterintuitive. It is perfectly okay for students and adults to express it since it is free speech. It is not disrespectful either. We are student government, representing all students. It is not our role to determine what idea is good or bad simply because a few members or more disagree with it and punish members of our community over something small. That is just outright censorship.”

This is clearly a much debated issue, but that is what academia is about: passionate but tolerant debate. Custer was voicing the view of many that TBL masks are not disrespectful or threatening of others. Yet, his defense of the officer triggered an immediate and anger response. According to The College Fix, one student senator wrote “[I]t’s honestly humorous that a White man is going to sit here and try to tell someone of color, more specifically Black, when something is or isn’t racist.” Another said that Custer believes that black people should be murdered: “Breaking news: Jacob Custer is angry and taking a stand against people of color because he isn’t allowed to disagree with the idea that Black people don’t deserve to be murdered.”

The student government then impeached Custer for what appears to be his exercise of free speech.

The university will only say that it is reviewing the action.

The action is a clear denial of the free speech rights of the conservative students and violates the university policies on protecting such rights:

As a private university, RIT retains the legal authority to determine the extent to which it will regulate an individual’s right to free speech and expression. RIT vigorously supports the rights of all members of the RIT Community to freely express their views and to peacefully and lawfully protest against actions and opinions with which they disagree.  RIT also recognizes that the right to free speech and expression is not absolute. It must be balanced against the university’s obligation to the principles of academic freedom and to provide a secure and civil environment where faculty, staff, and students can freely exchange ideas and openly engage in deliberation, debate and learning. Any decision that RIT might take to regulate speech or expression by members of the RIT Community, shall be based on RIT’s commitment to foster a safe and civil environment where differing views and opinions are expressed.  Open-mindedness, civility, respect, decency, and sensitivity for the opinions and rights of others, however different from one’s own, are crucial to fulfilling the university’s academic mission.

While the statement seems to emphasize the right to regulate rather than protect speech, this action is clearly in contravention of the policy.

The university did little during the campaign or the petition to make clear that all students will be guaranteed the rights to free speech and association. Recently, RIT President David Munson declared:

“Earlier today, we learned that the Student Government Senate voted to uphold the Standards Review Board’s decision to impeach an elected member of the Student Government Senate. We felt strongly that it was proper and necessary for the Student Government to follow and complete the process outlined in their Student Government Bylaws, …However, the question of whether the decision may have violated university policy C.11, protecting free speech and expression, has been raised. As is always the case, the RIT President’s Office reserves the right to review any decision that may violate RIT policy. … To ensure that no RIT policies have been violated, I will be assembling a Review Panel, which will include members of the RIT Board of Trustees and others, to review the evidence and decisions from the Standards Review Board and the appeal process.”

The two controversies are the latest example of how student governments can function as surrogates to silence opposing voices and viewpoints on campuses. It is commendable for reviews or appeals to be conducted. However, the silence of these schools in both controversies has been disconcerting. Students were subjected to abusive campaigns for weeks due to their exercise of free speech.  The universities remained conspicuously silent. However, student self-governance is not a license to abuse other students or deny their speech rights. Universities cannot simply say that students “can always appeal” and do nothing to maintain the core guarantees of speech and associational rights.

I recognize that universities must be careful to honor self-governance as well as opposing free speech rights. What was missing in my view was a proactive statement from the university presidents that viewpoint discrimination would not be allowed and that, while students will be allowed to voice their opposing to viewpoints or groups, the university will not permit the sanctioning or barring of students or groups based on content discrimination.  One possible reform is to allow for the equivalent of an interlocutory appeal to the university to force a review on the grounds of raw viewpoint discrimination in certain cases like impeachments.  The alternative to is allow students to be dragged through abusive processes based on their voicing unpopular views.

Under the current system, students can create kangaroo courts that pummel students with opposing views as universities wait silent and passively for any possible appeal. The result is a chilling effort for other students who will not want to be subjected to such abuse — and have a year of responding to these attacks by the student government. The obvious result is that the majority can deter opposing viewpoints and groups by increasing the cost of exercising the rights of free speech and association.


191 thoughts on “New York College Under Fire After Targeting Conservative Students and Groups”

  1. There is a war going on between defenders of human rights and those opposed to human rights. Once the anti-hr side marched under the banner of principled opposition to political correctness but now they much under the banner of being against the extremes of Woke_silliness.

    The fact is that the arguments pushed by the Woke go well beyond what is reasonable but so do those of the anti-Woke.

    A large proportion of conservatives and right wingers oppose human rights but can’t do so directly as human rights have sacred cow status and cannot be opposed openly. Therefore they oppose “Political Corectness” or “Wokeness” by which they mean the wrong interpretation of human rights as homo sapiens sapiens rights and their extension to homo sapiens sapiens individuals who are not human in the sense of being entitled to human rights. Probably 95% of homo sapiens on Earth fall into this category. One term for them is “UNPEOPLE” but I prefer to call them “GOD’S Step-children. Their entitlement to human rights has been extinguished by the superior rights of others such as imperialists or settler colonists. Some examples:-

    1/ All members of the US’s black underclass whose rights not to be killed by Police weigh nothing in comparison to the Police’s imperative to keep them under control by violence that extends into the range that can kill. Derek Chauvin had to keep his knee on George Floyds neck for eight minutes because Floyd kept resisting by saying “I Can’t breathe” and Chauvin interpreted this correctly as Floyd attempting to get a breath so that he could morph into magic N–ro Incredible Hulk mode and burst out from under the pile of Police throwing these poor saps 30 metres into the air such that all would die with broken necks on return to Earth. I have absolutely no doubt that Chauvin will not be convicteded.

    2/ Indigenous people in Latin America resisting land theft such as Berta Caceres in Honduras rightly killed by agents of the oligarchy;

    3/ All Palestinian descendants of the people (Jews) who occupied Palestine in Roman times (the 1st century AD) , but now called “Arabs” . There existence contravenes Zionist mythological history of Palestine being uninhabited for 500 years after Rome expelled all the Jews and Israel must get rid of them. Ethnic cleansing has not worked and Israel desperately needs to implement a final solution to the Palestinian problem.

    4/ All criminals except respectable white collar criminals who steal a couple of billion at a time.

    5/ ………………………….

  2. On Biden’s speech:

    Leave it to a serial plagiarizer to take credit for another man’s achievements.

    Oh, and thanks for giving me permission to have a picnic on July 4th — with, of course, only a small gathering.

    After all the media slobbering over Biden’s reading of the teleprompter, next up: A standing ovation as Biden hits a beach ball off a tee.

    On the supposed Covid relief bill:

    If there were truth in advertising, that bill would be called: A massive redistribution/welfare boondoggle, that has virtually nothing to do with Covid relief, and almost everything to do with greasing the palms of democrat constituencies.

    And, of course, almost nobody asks the obvious question: Who pays for that insane welfare program?

  3. Professor Turley’s Article:

    A very good article though I think an acquittal would be just.

    Besides three times the lethal amount of fentanyl in his system, Floyd also had methamphetamine. A quick search shows that that drug combination is much more dangerous than either drug taken separately.

    The judge granted a motion in limine barring the defense from revealing that on a previous occasion Floyd swallowed a quantity of drugs in anticipation of arrest and was hospitalized. I think the jury should hear it but it’s not my call.

    Some of the potential jurors have said they are fearful for their families, homes and themselves.

    If I were on the jury and facing both the evidence and the mob dangers I would be tempted to argue that we go for a hung jury with an agreement never to reveal the holdout. I would want to be the holdout because I could not in good conscience vote to convict and I doubt that the others could be convinced to acquit outright while the courthouse is under siege.

    Good chance there will be a hung jury.

  4. Psssst…..No one respects this president Joe Hidin’ Biden. And that’s not hyperbole, I mean it.

      1. Yep, it’s that bad. Just read this…..

        ‘Have heard from multiple White House and national security officials that Kamala is getting the full PDB daily. Highly unusual and Biden didn’t even get that himself when he was VP.’ @jackposobiec

        1. Harris will probably be President before the year is out. She will probably pick Susan Rice for VP.

  5. Comrade Biden-mentia said we’re all gonna get the


    Thank you so much, President Donald J. Trump.

  6. Marbury v Madison revealed that the SCOTUS has the power of “judicial review.”

    So review already!

    The SCOTUS should have already struck down the portions of the $1.9 trillion Stimulus legislation which provide money or bailouts to particular individuals, enterprises, states, municipalities, unions, etc.

    Per Article 1, Section 8, Congress has the power to tax ONLY for “…general Welfare…,” omitting and, thereby, excluding any power to tax for individual welfare, charity and/or bailouts of enterprises, unions, states,

    local governmets, foreign entities, etc.

    What the —- is that Supreme Court with the power of judicial review doing?

  7. For those weak in economics make sure to read at least the last part of this article. When reading this think of Detroit Michigan:

    “And what would make you come back?”

    New York City is dead forever

    Author, comedy club owner and former hedge-fund manager James Altucher self-published this essay on Thursday, Aug. 13, under the title, “NYC is dead forever. Here’s why.” He granted the New York Post permission to reprint his piece in full below.

    …Now it’s completely dead. “But NYC always always bounces back.” No. Not this time. “But NYC is the center of the financial universe. Opportunities will flourish here again.” Not this time.

    “NYC has experienced worse.” No, it hasn’t.

    1. Turns out the cost of being late dealing with a pandemic is catastrophic.


      1. “Turns out the cost of being late dealing with a pandemic is catastrophic.”

        It is but doing the wrong things is worse. All you have to do is look at our two largest states, NY and CA. How did they fare? What about the other five or six Democrat states that also killed seniors? How about the left’s destruction of the economy? How about the left’s focus on a political impeachment rather than the Pandemic or the nation’s affairs?

        Glad to see that you are turning your attention to the failures of Democrats.

      2. Elvis insect : Turns out having a senile grifter installed as president IS CATOSTROPHIC. Your dear clueless leader has redacted almost everything Trump used to keep china at bay….. he has even assaulted womens rights by forcing tranny’s into their sports and ahead of women in line …you know out of fairness…ha ha ha. A senile potus whom has opened the border and now is putting illegals in cages beyond even what obammy did…yet there is no crisis. They carry covid , typhoid and then some…but hell let’em all flood in so your fed god can ship them to your neighborhood. Nice. So how is your china joe senility not catastrophic…please enlighten us with the latest bend -o – truth propaganda of the left.

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