Georgetown Considers Preventing Students from Shouting Down Events

A protestor holds a sign reading No one is Illegal during a rally against the US immigration policy on September 14, 2019 in New York City. - Some dozens protesters were arrested by the police after blocking the 5th Avenue. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo credit should read …
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

A committee at Georgetown University Law Center is mulling over the idea of changing its policies regarding student protests after an event in which former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan was forced off stage due to shouting open borders protesters.

School administrators at Georgetown University are re-evaluating the law school’s policies on student protests after a demonstration that involved shouting down, and ultimately preventing, former DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan from delivering his speech on campus last October, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The report adds that some law students have expressed their dismay over a potential policy change, claiming that the move may restrict their First Amendment rights.

Others, however, argue that being unable to hear from a speaker of one’s choice — due to disruptive protesting that ultimately shuts down an event — is also an act of restricting someone’s right to free speech.

The Dean of Georgetown University Law Center, William Treanor, has now asked the committee to establish more specific guidelines with regards to speech and expression on campus, according to Inside Higher Ed. Treanor also requested that the new guidelines be implemented by the spring of 2020.

Students were notified of the dean’s request in a January 16 email signed by Dean of Students Mitch Bailin, and professor Peter Byrne.

The report adds that the committee was specifically tasked with deciding whether the law school should control who is invited to speak on campus, or what the school’s response should be in an event of another “disruptive” protest.

Should the committee decide to crack down on “disruptive protests” — rather than curtail future speaking invitations — the committee must then decide whether any “possible disciplinary or other administrative action” should be taken against students or staff deemed “disrupters.”

Georgetown’s current policy states that it is a violation “to curtail the free speech rights of others,” and that “actions that violate this policy include disrupting events to prohibit other students from hearing the views of an invited speaker,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

Some students argue that protesters had violated an already-existing policy by preventing McAleenan from speaking last October.

“I’m not arguing for any change, because as they’re written, they’re fine,” said one student of the schools’ current policy to Inside Higher Ed.

“This is a factual disagreement, not a policy disagreement,” the student added, “A majority of the audience was there to listen, and there were four or five people who did not want to listen, and they got their way. That runs counter to the idea of free speech.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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