Republican congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt had a limited audience when she spoke at Southern New Hampshire University after school administrators ordered the event to be restricted to students only.
Ky Urban, president of the SNHU College Republican Club, said he was first made aware of the policy to limit or exclude what the school deems “controversial” speakers when he asked about hosting an event featuring the GOP candidate for the first congressional district.
“We were just hoping to line up our lecturers for the next academic year. We would like to bring candidates, politicians and people who speak on topics that are of interest to conservatives,” Urban said. “We first learned of this ‘controversial speaker’ policy when we were trying to accommodate Karoline Leavitt who is running for the US Congress on CD-1. The administration finally let us organize an event with her. But they restricted it to only SNHU students, which reduced the number of people who could attend,” Urban said.
Urban was told the university must thoroughly review and approve all proposed speakers to ensure they “are not so controversial that they would attract unwanted protesters” to campus. The university explained that it “invites[s] discussion as long as it is friendly.
Rather than allowing the general public to attend, as is usually the practice for public interest speakers, the campus GOP was instructed to limit the invitation to only students. As a result, the administration has the power to restrict who is allowed to speak on campus and who is allowed to hear them.
Leavitt blamed the liberal culture in higher education that seeks to downplay or silence conservative voices.
“Across America, college campuses are silencing conservatives for fear of backlash from their overwhelming liberal student population. To avoid outcry from their students, college administrations have devised various ways to ensure that their monolithic brainwashing programs operate without dissent. The only way to disrupt their indoctrination of our young people is to challenge the status quo, which I will continue to do when given the opportunity,” Leavitt said.
The guest speaker review policy has caught the attention of free speech organization FIRE – the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression – which has criticized the school and demanded it change its practices .
“As university officials determine what opinions are worth sharing, as SNHU administrators claim the power to do here, students and faculty will invite fewer speakers to campus. In turn, fewer controversial and non-controversial speakers will come and fewer points of view will be shared, all at the expense of the campus community,” said Sabrina Conza of FIRE.
Siobhan Lopez, SNHU’s deputy director of media relations, said the school is committed to fostering the free exchange of ideas, as long as there is order on campus.
“Southern New Hampshire University seeks to promote and facilitate the exchange of innovative and diverse ideas, and we welcome speakers with a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds to foster a diverse and rich educational experience for members. of the university community. Our policies comply with state and federal laws and allow the free flow of information and ideas while ensuring campus safety,” Lopez said.
Urban said the way the policy is enforced targets conservatives. An administrator told him that former President Donald Trump would not be allowed to speak on campus because he was too controversial.
“We are not aware of any specific criteria for speakers considered acceptable under SNHU’s controversial speaker policy. However, vague language generally allows administrators to adopt policies that are not above board and make excuses after the fact,” Urban said.
Events with guest speakers are essential for campus clubs, which use them to recruit new members. Urban said having a limited audience when a speaker is deemed too controversial is a setback for clubs like his.
“This policy has seriously harmed our club as we are unable to bring in speakers who will draw large crowds. Normally exciting speaking events are a highlight for conservative college clubs and help to increase the number of members,” Urban said.
The events also bring diverse ideas to the campus, which tends to lean ideologically to the left, according to Urban.
“They also help bring diverse viewpoints to campus, as liberal arts colleges tend to lean to the left when it comes to the speakers they bring and what is taught in the classroom. We ask SNHU to uphold its commitment to free speech on campus,” Urban said.