Northwestern Student Government Bars The Press from Some Meetings

We have regularly discussed the rising attacks on free speech on college campuses, including Northwestern University.  Protesters at Northwestern have blocked speakers while maintaining that there is “no free speech for overtly racist white dudes.” They have stopped classes from discussing ICE policies. However, the student government has now added an attack on the free press by voting to block media from meetings to protect students from criticism over their advocacy. Even the dean of the school’s prestigious journalism school called out the action as inimical to the free press.

The Daily Northwestern reported that the vote of the student government was unanimous in barring media from some meetings. It only pledged to supply “minutes to journalists for closed meetings, withholding the personal information of speakers.”

Student government member Assem Belhadj explained:

“This is about how to make sure student activism within ASG can be protected in a way that students can speak and have the freedom to dissent on issues without having this fear that what they say will be blown out of proportion and they will be publicly criticized.”

So these are government meetings but students do not want to be held accountable for what they may say or demand. What is striking is that Northwestern has been regularly criticized for its cancel culture where students seek to silence opposing views. Yet, in seeking government action, students do not want to be identified in seeking controversial measures.

Putting aside the denial of the rights of the free press, including the college newspaper, the move violates decades of sunshine laws premised on open government.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act embodies this policy, which presumes meetings will be open and “strictly” construes exceptions. The OMA states that “it is the intent of [the Illinois] Act to ensure that actions of public bodies be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.” 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. 120/1 (West 2005). The narrow exceptions deal with such subjects as disciplinary actions, collective negotiations, removals from office etc. It does not include a general closed meeting power.

Clearly, this is a private university and not subject to the OMA. However, Northwestern’s student government is now moving to insulate its student government from public scrutiny and accountability. It is a deeply troubling lesson for students who believe that government should be less transparent and advocates should be less accountable in seeking official changes. Moreover, even if you want to allow people to speak at meetings without identifying themselves, the meetings (and student representatives) should always be subject to media and public scrutiny.

The question is whether this is a matter left entirely to students at a university. We faced a similar question when student governments targeted individual students for unpopular viewpoints. The university should have its own policy on student government and open meetings. Just as student governments should have to operate consistently with regard to free speech, they should do so with regard to the free press.

  • For the record, I hold a degree from Northwestern University.

 

61 thoughts on “Northwestern Student Government Bars The Press from Some Meetings”

  1. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS; YOU’RE AN IMBECILE, WE MEET IN PRIVATE SO AS TO NOT HEAR YOU!

    Sir Herbert Reed: “Do not judge this movement kindly. It is not just another amusing stunt. It is defiant – desperate act of men too profoundly convinced of the rottenness of our civilization to want to save a shred of it respectability.”

  2. If a country is a member of the United Nations, why should it strive to uphold and abide by the UN charter?

  3. Why let the enemy benefit from free expression? Why is it okay to blow up the enemy real good, but not take away his free expression?

  4. I would like to add for the record that when Prof. Turley went to Northwestern University, it was a first-rate educational institution. But today’s Northwestern is nothing like the days when Prof. Turley attended, and it’s now just another LIE . . . Leftist Indocrination Entity.

  5. Let’s just stop with the wink and nudge, about this being “government”.
    Government that is not transparent, is nothing but an unaccountable mob. Why hold elections? How to decide? Public debates are useless, without public knowledge of how the governing body makes its decisions. I would ask these elected “counsel” to describe some historic bodies that are successful is such procedures. I doubt a single member could provide a reasoned response to questioning.

  6. One would think that the students would be proud to stand before the press at any meeting and proclaim what they believe in rather than to be enveloped in a cloak of secrecy. Hiding is usually done in the to enable the doing of dastardly deeds. Kind of like the Ku Klux Klan wanting to keep their klavern meetings secret. One cult or the other. Whats the difference?

    1. MP, at one time the Democrats loved the term socialist but it fell out of favor when we fought the socialist regime of Stalin in the second world war. So they came up with the word progressive to revive their reputation. You know, progressive like in you don’t want to do the same thing as in the past such as the owning of production being the people. You need to throw of those old ways of thinking (chains) and come to the realization that the state should own all the means of production and distribute it as they see fit. New name same goal. You have to hand it to them. Progressive is pretty catchy and very stealthy.

      1. We didn’t fight with “the socialist regime of Stalin in the second world war”. He was a Communist at the time and our ally during WWII and “the word progressive” was around long before then and in fact Teddy Rosevelt; a long time Republican, formed the Progressive Party as a third party in 1912 after he lost the presidential nomination of the Republican Party.

  7. I don’t see how college students these days absorb any knowledge with all of the constant laughing and giggling that they do. College seems more like a daycare center than an institute of higher learning.

  8. Jonathan: Why mention the Illinois OMA if it doesn’t apply to Northwestern–a private university? Probably because you are clutching at straws. Judging from the statement by a student govt. member you cite it could be argued everyone would be “protected” and given the “freedom to dissent”. That would include conservatives–the endangered species you defend in many of your posts. Without more information I think your concerns are overblown. So permit me to mention some real threats on other campuses around the country.

    In North Carolina white students at JS Waters School (K-8) held a “slave auction”. A Black mother says a friend of her son was sold at the “auction” for $350. A white student was the “slave master”. JS Waters is 68% white. In a video of the event white students were harmonizing the N-word. The white ringleaders of the “auction” were suspended for only one day. When they returned to school one white student threw a baseball several times at the Black mother’s son who reported the incident. There are ongoing threats to free speech in neighboring Georgia. In Georgia the GOP controlled Senate just passed SB377 that prohibits teaching “divisive” subjects–such as Georgia is “fundamentally or systematically racist”. The bill’s sponsor says that history could be taught without “making [white] children feel guilty or uncomfortable”. A similar bill is being pushed in North Carolina.

    So in North Carolina white students should not have to learn about the history of slavery in their state because it might make them feel “uncomfortable” but Black students at JS Waters have no similar protection under the law when they are sold at a “slave auction”. What happens at Northwestern pales in comparison to what Black students face in North Carolina.

    1. Dennis,

      According to CNN, the language in SB377 does not “prohibit the discussion of divisive concepts, as part of a larger course of instruction, in an objective manner and without endorsement.”. CNN also states SB377 does not “prohibit the use of curriculum that addresses topics of slavery, racial or ethnic oppression, racial or ethnic segregation, or racial or ethnic discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in such oppression, segregation, and discrimination.”

      Your concerns are overblown.

      And I can’t find one citation from the sponsor that says “making [white] children feel guilty or uncomfortable”.

      The fact that you inserted “[white]” makes you look foolish and pathetic.

      1. Sergeant Major/ThinkitThrough: SB 377 in Georgia does exactly what I set out in my comment. It is based on the language from a 2020 EO by Donald Trump banning “divisive concepts” in training federal employees. Although Trump’s EO was rescinded by Biden, Republicans in Georgia want to revive it with this bill. SB377 specifically prohibits K-12 schools and higher education institutions from teaching 9 different “divisive concepts” (A thru H). On such concept is subsection (B) that prohibits the teaching that the “United States and the State of Georgia are fundamentally or systematically racist”. Under Subsection (G) a “divisive concept” is one where “an individual should feel discomfort , guilt. anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of his or her race, skin color, or ethnicity;…”. While other sections of SB377 talk about “intellectual freedom and free expression” and under subsection (d)(4) it does not prohibit “the discussion of divisive concepts, as part of a larger course of of instruction, in an objective manner manner and without endorsement”, the kicker is what is “objective” and “without endorsement”. Who defines those terms? All this is just boiler plate language to disguise what Georgia Republicans actually have in mind. Their intent is clear. They want to ban any discussion in public schools of the actual racist history of this country. The language you refer to is simply an attempt to put lipstick on a pig!

        I suggest, before you opine on something you know next to nothing about, you actually should read the full text of SB377. That will tell you what Georgia Republicans intend. If CNN is your only source of information you need to do some more sourcing. They often misinterpret and relying on them to make your case shows you both need to “increase the voltage” in your tiny brains!

        1. Dennis,

          “The language you refer to is simply an attempt to put lipstick on a pig!”

          That’s the language in the bill. You may not like that language because it defies your false and pathetic insert “[white]” here narrative.

          And you forget to mention that the bill does not “prohibit the use of curriculum that addresses topics of slavery, racial or ethnic oppression, racial or ethnic segregation, or racial or ethnic discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in such oppression, segregation, and discrimination.”

          This bill is not against teaching the about the sins of our nation’s history, and anyone suggesting otherwise is a liar.

        2. Dennis,

          “ Under Subsection (G) a “divisive concept” is one where “an individual should feel discomfort , guilt. anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of his or her race, skin color, or ethnicity;…”.”

          Are you suggesting that this should not be prohibited?

    2. So Dennis, your friends at CNN say that SB377 does not prohibit the teaching about slavery. Please provide a source that says that slavery is not presented in the teaching of American history in our schools. When the little leftist fairy whispers in your ear you should use your imagination and not just accept what the little fairy says. Doing so might lead to your enlightenment by increasing the voltage to your brain.

    3. Jonathan: Why mention the Illinois OMA if it doesn’t apply to Northwestern–a private university?

      Because it is a principle, value, cultural cornerstone, that should be held as something the emulate as a governing body.

      You must think it is stupid, and holds no value that should be considered. You think secrecy, and no accountability, is preferred.

      You are welcomed to your opinion, Now defend it. If secrecy is such a good idea, a little dust up over Presidential records is far from something that even earns a mention, surely not a serious examination.

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