Administrators at DePaul University told the school’s College Republicans group this week they are banned from circulating a pro-life poster that mimics the style and design of the Black Lives Matter logo.
According to Inside Higher Ed, DePaul University President Dennis H. Holtschneider ordered the College Republicans to redesign their pro-life poster out of concerns that it “provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider, president at DePaul, released a statement in which he said that the Republicans banner “provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.” He elaborated: “Some people will say that DePaul’s stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd. Nothing can be further from the truth. As we experienced last spring, it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the quad, or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall. In both recent cases, the first, we encourage; the second, we abhor.”
The student group released a statement, condemning the university for their decision to place restrictions on their expression: ““We, the DePaul College Republicans, are appalled by the university’s decision to censor pro-life messaging and give the Black Lives Matter movement some sort of protected status. Our proposed poster was in no way meant to ‘mock’ BLM, although we feel that we should be able to criticize the movement if and when we find it necessary to do so.”
“Frankly, DePaul University seems intent on trashing the very Catholic and American values it claims to be grounded in,” they stated.
The DePaul College Republicans have accused administrators of censorship, claiming that a Catholic institution should stand with students’ pro-life activism efforts. Although administrators maintain that they took issue with the design of the poster rather than its message, DePaul College Republicans president John Minster claims that this act to ban their poster design is reflective of the administration’s wider efforts to censor conservative and libertarian thought.
“Once again, DePaul University has shown its true colors. Rather than standing up for the pro-life and free speech ethics this ‘Catholic’ university claims to uphold, [the] administration has bent the knee to radical leftists, banning more speech despite the pro-life message,” Minster said.
Ari Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) argues that the DePaul administration’s decision to place restrictions on the expression of its conservative students violates the commitments to open expression that it promises its students. “DePaul’s decision to prohibit the College Republicans’ poster on the ground that it could ‘provoke’ the Black Lives Matter movement is a violation of the core principles of freedom of expression and DePaul’s own promises of free speech to its students. Unfortunately, it is entirely consistent with the administration’s history of shutting down speech that it disagrees with,” Cohn offered.
This isn’t the first time that DePaul has restricted the expression of conservative values. Breitbart Senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to the university earlier this year was derailed after activists rushed the stage. Despite expensive security fees, officers did not remove the protesters as Milo was nearly assaulted by a student activist who refused to let the event proceed after occupying the stage.
“Provocative speech is precisely what the principles of free speech are meant to protect,” Cohn added. “Speech that provokes often stimulates the conversations that we need to have in order to advance as a society. If DePaul’s version of free speech is ‘only speech that does not offend or provoke others,’ then DePaul should stop claiming to offer free speech altogether.”
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org