Ohio Northern University Denies Republican Group “Back the Blue” Apparel

There is another free speech fight brewing at Ohio Northern University. According to the site College Reform, Ohio Northern College Republicans were denied approval of apparel featuring “Back the Blue” on the sleeve and a Thin Blue Line flag printed on the back. Even though the shirts did not include references to ONU, the university still barred the design due to other schools being forced “to retract and apologize” for such designs. It is another variation of the “heckler’s veto” where (in this case private) schools intervene to stop lectures or expressive activities due to the objections of others.

“Back the Blue” is obviously an expression loaded with political and social meaning in support for police officers. The denial of such expression is content-based censorship.

College Republicans president Madeline Markwood noted that the student handbook does not require such pre-approval but that the group wanted to work with the university in good faith. In emails obtained by Campus Reform, ONU associate director of Communications and Marketing Sheila Baumgartner wrote to Markwood on September 17 to emphasize the “sensitivity” of the design and the need to discuss the request with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board and the Office of Multicultural Development office.

Baumgartner then stated  “[t]hey then discussed as a group and would recommend not moving forward with this project. There are several schools who allowed Blue Lives initiatives who have had to retract and apologize.”

He cited such incidents as Emerson College apologizing for displaying the Thin Blue Line flag.  Notably, the controversy at Emerson was the use of a Blue Lives Matter flag on as an office computer screensaver.  This is the denial of the use of such symbols by students.

ONU then suggested a meeting with the Office of Multicultural Development and Interim Director of Multicultural Development Albertina Walker agreed to meet to discuss “thin blue line flag and its complicated place right now in American culture.”  The meeting appeared to get derailed when Walker said that the office needs to “understand what it means for your organization to ‘support the Police Union’ by selling its paraphernalia” so that she can “understand [Markwood’s] perspective.”

Markwood said (correctly) that the students should not need to explain their support for police or justify it.

Ohio Northern University is a private institution, not a state school. It is not the government shutting down the speech in the classic heckler’s veto but the effect is the same with officials barring expression by citing the opposition of others. Imagine if the school barred “Black Lives Matter” displays or other such causes. It is discriminating on the basis of the content of the messages on the basis that some are too “controversial.”  It invites bias and selective regulation.

Ohio Northern University should reverse this course and remove such objections in the interests of free speech.

123 thoughts on “Ohio Northern University Denies Republican Group “Back the Blue” Apparel”

  1. “(in this case private) schools intervene”

    I too am an advocate and defender of upholding free speech (and association,etc), but… this is a PRIVATE institution. When did it become objectionable for private institutions – of any sort – to set the rules for speech (and association, etc) when on their grounds? What is next – ‘terms of service’ suddenly become censorious?

    Despite a strong desire not to show my age, Professor, I still feel compelled to ask: where’s the beef?

  2. They need a tee shirt with the sentence on the front and back:. “Dumb Shits Matter”.
    They could censor the one word by inserting the Piglatin word “itShay”.

  3. “To put it another way, pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Why must it be pain? Why can’t he rouse us more gently, with violins or laughter? Because the dream from which we must be wakened, is the dream that all is well.”
    William Nicholson, in Shadowlands by C. S. Lewis

  4. Merrick Garland has found something beside garage door pulls to investigate. Now he wants to go after parents who are reckless enough to address complaints to the school board about CRT.

    His hands are not clean. His son-in-law apparently is in the business of selling this corrosive crap to schools.

    Besides the conflict of interest, I have to wonder what federal law is being broken here? Fascism had finally landed in America.


      1. Senator Rand Paul:

        “Moms at school boards are being told that they’re criminals, potential domestic terrorists, for the crime of dissent, and I think criminalizing dissent is something that we should all be appalled with,” Paul told Fox News.

        “I would say be afraid. Be afraid of your government,” he responded. “That’s a sad thing from someone in the government to say, but the thing is, is those lists already exist.”

        “I think the problem is, it’s become so normalized to use government to search out and seek out your opponents,”

        “If you go to a school board meeting and you’re disruptive and you don’t obey the rules of the school board meeting, then there will be local punishment,” Paul said. “But that has nothing to do with the federal law, it has nothing to do with the Department of Justice. What Merrick Garland did is, he’s attempting to stifle dissent, and he’s attempting to say, ‘Beware, or Big Brother’s coming after you if you speak out against my policies or against the Biden policies.’

        Watch his interview:


      2. The inmates have taken over the asylum and will soon hand the keys to the communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) in America.

        Now you know why the American Founders restricted the vote, generally, in each state to male, European, 21 with 50 lbs. Sterling or 50 acres.

        Now you know why turnout in the 1788 election of George Washington was 11.6% by design.

        The American Founders did not codify those restrictions, instead, relying on the judicial branch and Supreme Court to assure the implementation of the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

        In fact, the judicial branch, emphasis on the Supreme Court, has been and remains the singular American failure.

        “[We gave you] a [restricted-vote] republic, if you can keep it.”

        – Ben Franklin

    1. Young exclaims:

      “ Fascism had finally landed in America.”

      Why not a peep from Turley? Do you suppose Turley thinks that America is now a fascist country?

      Perhaps you’re overreacting just a tad? Nothing is ever as bad as it seems though nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse.

      1. Perhaps you’re overreacting just a tad? Nothing is ever as bad as it seems though nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse. ”

        I’ve relatives out of WW2/Korea Etc., combat that would disagree with you if around to this day.

        Can you stand & fight after an enemy’s attack.

      2. “Perhaps you’re overreacting just a tad? Nothing is ever as bad as it seems “

        There are those who are incapable of learning from history. I’ve said fascism is on our doorstep many times in recent months. I can remember history, you cannot. How quickly did Hitler gain power only to shortly thereafter seize complete power.

        The left yelled about Trump bringing fascism to our doors but he never wanted to and never could do so even if that was his desire. The left believed it could happen only because that was in the back of their minds. They wanted to take complete control the next time they gained the seat of power.

        Though you do not recognize things until they are too late, the left of today is fascist and seeks total control.

      3. However came up with the term “nothing is ever as bad as it seems” and whomever repeats it are naive and ignorant. Tell Gabby Petto’s family it’s not as bad as it seems.

    2. Merrill Garland almost landed on the Supreme Court. Boy did we dodge a bullet.

  5. The student leader is wise beyond her years. She is right – the burden is on the university to explain why ONU believes that supporting the police is problematic, controversial, and an issue in American Culture. The question needs to be asked: How did things spin so wildly out of control at ONU? What can be done to right the ship?
    ONU President Daniel DiBiasio leads a university in crisis. Just two years ago, ONU laid off 16 staff members and eliminated academic programs including German, French, and the Master of Laws Degree. In 2016 (the latest year easily available), DiBiasio banked an annual salary of nearly $400,000, well into the top 1%, if not the top 0.1%, of earners in rural northwest Ohio. The university leadership is bloated with impressively-titled and no doubt highly compensated administrators like Provost Juliet Hertig, Executive Vice President for Communications and Marketing Amy Prigge, and Director of Multicultural Development Albertina Walker. Many of them members of the “President’s Cabinet,” all of them prominently featured on ONUs website. Impressive. But with the titles come responsibility.
    The failure of leadership doesn’t end with DiBiasio, and the publicly available information only raises more questions. Strangely enough, one of the architects of the crisis was Sheila Baumgartner, ONUs Director of Communications and Marketing, and presumably an employee of Amy Prigge. Baumgartner’s concern? That student support for Blue Lives Matter would harm ONUs reputation, that ONU might be forced to apologize. This grave miscalculation has already exposed ONU to widespread public ridicule that will take years to overcome. Talk about blowing the call.
    Where was Communications and Marketing EVP Prigge? Were her employees acting on their own and, if not, was Prigge complicit in the crisis? Of course, the bigger question is why the Marketing Department took a lead role in student affairs in the first place. How in the world did ONU public relations replace the best interests of the students as the lodestar in university administration? Talk about the cart leading the horse. This all happed under DiBiasio’s watch. The buck stops with him, but his “Cabinet Member” Prigge has some explaining to do as well.
    Then there is the mysteriously titled Office of Multicultural Development (OMD), apparently headed by Albertina Walker, according to public reports another prominent figure in the cabal tormenting the campus Republicans. Fun fact: Did you know that OMD’s website proudly states that ONU discriminates on the basis of race and ethnicity when awarding scholarships? As leader of the University, DiBiasio should explain to the world the qualifications that led to Walker’s hiring. Do they extend beyond her commitment to a particular political viewpoint? And on the macro level, why does the OMD have any role in policing students who support the police?
    It is incumbent on DiBiasio, Hertig, Prigge, and Walker to explain their failure of leadership, how they and the University will redress the wrongs to the students involved, and the steps they will take to ensure that such a gross injustice and dereliction of duty won’t happen again. If they are unable or unwilling, then they should lose their jobs. Immediately.
    But we shouldn’t hold our breath. DiBiasio is slated to retire in June 2022. It’s not unusual for those on the verge of retirement to mark time, to “retire in place” until their departure. It will take a vast amount of energy and leadership for DiBiasio to right the ship before his departure. DiBiasio led ONU into this mess. Cleaning it up is the least he can do for ONU and his successor. If he lacks the will, he should retire now.

  6. To analnonymous and jiffy…You float CNN left wing meidia talking points…”Repub;licans dont’s care about police lives “??????. Really you guys are just that vacant . The demoratzis have been on a two year crusade to defund and abolish the polizei as they see fit. Guess you ignored this as so many sheeple do of your cult.
    The DOJ … being steered by the narcissist Garland Merrick ( thank god he never made scotus ! ) is now looking into parents conflicting with zeig heil school boards …and you toadies are on board with this “domestic terrorism”. Because the Dept of just us is now looking into silencing parents because of Communist Race training amongst gobs of other indoctrination. Wow…shallow and proud of it you toads are !.
    Meanwhile we are sadled woth a senile puppet being fed lines and our country steered by exactly whom ?. Can you say with certainty our federal morass is being run by a senile puppet president …or a goobermint of shadow apparatchiks that simply know better and don’t you dare object. Can you ?. No you nor anyone can.

  7. I’m sure this is an interesting topic, but there is a far more immediate threat to parents’ freedom of speech. Watch Mark Levin last night on Hannity:


    Levin and Hannity are accusing Garland’s DOJ of weaponizing the FBI into a version of the “East German Stasi”- Levin’s words, not mine. This chilling effect is as bad as it gets!

    Where is Professor Turley?

    Why isn’t he on Hannity as well condemning the DOJ? Isn’t this FBI national policy far more concerning than this isolated incident at Ohio Northern University??

    Why doesn’t Turley share the ALARM as his Fox News brethren? What is going on?

    1. It is perplexing.

      Perhaps raising our voices in juxtaposition is of greatest import.

      1. Prairie Rose,

        Were you replying to me? I agree that it is bizarre that Fox News is apoplectic over this DOJ policy, but there is nary a word from Turley. Instead, he sees fit to note these obscure free speech cases while avoiding the stories which the Right regards as cataclysmic! Usually he does reinforce Fox narratives (though not in the unhinged manner as the Prime Time hosts and especially Levin). One can only conclude that Turley does not agree with this dire Fox narrative; otherwise, he would reiterate it.

        I have pointed out before that Turley and Levin- both Constitutional scholars employed by Fox- NEVER mention each other. I would love to ask either what each thinks of the other. I imagine that they do not regard each other highly because they follow the general maxim that if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, then say nothing UNLESS they work for a competing network!

        1. Jeff S.,
          “nary a word from Turley”

          There is a phrase being bandied about that I detest: “thought leader”. It’s as though we cannot have our own thoughts or initiate independent thought; we instead, apparently, need our thoughts led by others. What so-called “thought leaders” are saying may have merit, may be worth considering–or better yet, weighing and debating and perhaps contradicting if warranted.

          Perhaps Professor Turley does not want to be anyone’s “thought leader”.

          However, his words carry more weight than ours in the comments section, so his broaching of the subject is important.

          Is the request by the NSBA and Superintendents association appropriate and Constiturionally considered? No. Worse, though is Garland’s response.

          The 2012 NDAA with its toothless signing statement about indefinite detention is out there. There is so much wrong with the NSBA’s letter. They invoked, inexplicably, the interstate commerce clause for local issues that should be handled by local law enforcement.

          School Boards should refuse to support this outfit.

          Gotta run. It’s a Friday evening. 🙂

    2. If you know anything about Turley, you know he’s more than alarmed by whats been going on. You are ignorant.

  8. The Founders gave Americans the one and only thing they could: Freedom.

    You rejected it.

  9. The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.

    Charles Krauthammer


    1. Estovir,
      Thank you for sharing that.

      Decline is a choice. More than a choice, a temptation. How to resist it?

      First, accept our role as hegemon. And reject those who deny its essential benignity. There is a reason that we are the only hegemon in modern history to have not immediately catalyzed the creation of a massive counter-hegemonic alliance as occurred, for example, against Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. There is a reason so many countries of the Pacific Rim and the Middle East and Eastern Europe and Latin America welcome our presence as balancer of power and guarantor of their freedom.

      And that reason is simple: We are as benign a hegemon as the world has ever seen.

      So, resistance to decline begins with moral self-confidence and will. But maintaining dominance is a matter not just of will but of wallet. We are not inherently in economic decline. We have the most dynamic, innovative, technologically advanced economy in the world. We enjoy the highest productivity. It is true that in the natural and often painful global division of labor wrought by globalization, less skilled endeavors like factory work migrate abroad, but America more than compensates by pioneering the newer technologies and industries of the information age.

      There are, of course, major threats to the American economy. But there is nothing inevitable and inexorable about them. Take, for example, the threat to the dollar (as the world’s reserve currency) that comes from our massive trade deficits. Here again, the China threat is vastly exaggerated. In fact, fully two-thirds of our trade imbalance comes from imported oil. This is not a fixed fact of life. We have a choice. We have it in our power, for example, to reverse the absurd de facto thirty-year ban on new nuclear power plants. We have it in our power to release huge domestic petroleum reserves by dropping the ban on offshore and Arctic drilling. We have it in our power to institute a serious gasoline tax (refunded immediately through a payroll tax reduction) to curb consumption and induce conservation.

      Nothing is written. Nothing is predetermined. We can reverse the slide, we can undo dependence if we will it.

      The other looming threat to our economy and to the dollar comes from our fiscal deficits. They are not out of our control. There is no reason we should be structurally perpetuating the massive deficits incurred as temporary crisis measures during the financial panic of 2008. A crisis is a terrible thing to exploit when it is taken by the New Liberalism as a mandate for massive expansion of the state and of national debt threatening the dollar, the entire economy, and consequently our superpower status abroad.

      There are things to be done. Resist retreat as a matter of strategy and principle. And provide the means to continue our dominant role in the world by keeping our economic house in order. And finally, we can follow the advice of Demosthenes when asked what was to be done about the decline of Athens. His reply? “I will give what I believe is the fairest and truest answer: Don’t do what you are doing now.”

    2. Thanks for this. Krauthammer’s death was a loss to clear thinking.

      I wonder what brought you to this lecture by Krauthammer?

      1. I miss Dr Krauthammer’s writings as well. He was a giant amongst elves at WaPo.

        I have long argued on this forum, indeed in my career in medicine and research, that most of our medical problems are due to poor lifestyle choices. I recently stated on here that I participated in a Zoom conference with other medical professionals regarding a possible drug molecule that may help prevent atherosclerosis, inflammasome inhibitors, NLRP3 class. However, all of this is useless because diet and exercise are the most effective and judicious approach for prevention and treatment of heart disease, all gratis. Thus, Krauthammer in 2009 was right: decline is a choice.

        Here is a youtube link of Dr K speaking. Keep in mind this man suffered a near fatal injury while diving into a swimming pool, that left him paralyzed during medical school, labored breathing, and still he completed his MD Degree, completed a 3 year residency in Psychiatry, published scientific research articles, and went on to be a sage in our world. Contrast these feats to the midgets that populate our country today. it’s depressing really.

        It staggers the mind that we have settled for such a decline as victimization and begging for government to rescue us.

        Charles Krauthammer: Decline Is a Choice | Manhattan Institute

        1. Krauthammer was one of my favorites. Agreement with his ideas and thinking process was easy, even when lacking agreement. Agree or not, one always had to keep what he said in the back of one’s mind.

          He made a big difference, and presently I find no replacement for his regular opinions. I fall back on Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, along with a host of others. The left could never honestly deal with Thomas Sowell’s ideas, so they stayed clear and utilized character assassination.

          The three mentioned above could express complex thoughts in simple terms, which tells everyone that in them exists true expertise.

          The basis of his lecture and your lifestyle comments are closely linked together. But, one must never forget that linkage is based on choice, and the choice depends on freedom. No one should be denied such a choice, but no one should not face the risks of their choosing. That is why free markets and limited government is necessary for a properly functioning country.

          Of course, we both recognize that republics have difficulty when the republic’s size is too large. That is why our original type of federalism is a necessity to prevent the loss of freedoms. That being said, every adult man or woman has a right to be fat. It is a trade-off, but the choice is an essential part of our being. Krauthammer made his choice that caused his disability and then chose not to let his disability prevent him from having a whole and productive life. The socialist mindset would be to live off another with a lesser medical issue.

          One should never forget the words “Decline is a choice.”

  10. What is WOKE and what is its ultimate goal? What seemed an innocent prepubescent playground dispute over hurt feelings has morphed into something very sinister with a foundational structure of Vitriolic Hatred, and fear of opposing views contrary to WOKE.

    Woke thinks the Constitution and Bill of Rights have fluidity and their gauche movement will ameliorate any short comings. Woke has taken silly notions to the nocuous: fouling dialogue, casting aspersions and stomping their feet at any contrary actions by others. They fight not for Freedom of Speech or Thought, but for censorship and State control. Woke must be checked before it becomes our ruination.

    Woke reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “A Few Figs From Thistles ‘Second Fig’’ ‘Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!’

  11. There are efforts underway to restore universities to their original purpose.

    Our nation’s first president, George Washington, described education “as one of the surest means of enlightening and giving just ways of thinking to our Citizens.” He saw the creation of a national university as a way to develop friendship and common intellectual pursuits among scholars with diverse interests throughout the nation, smoothing over local prejudices and developing sentiments of liberality among America’s leaders.

    At a moment when America feels more divided than ever before, ISI’s inaugural American Politics and Government Summit will fulfill Washington’s vision by being the first step, among many, in a long but urgent journey towards illuminating the American mind.

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