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How One University Administration Allowed a Mob to Shut Down Free Speech

By Caroline Roberts posted on:
April 7, 2021

When a mob breaks out on a university campus, campus officials are supposed to break it up and ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s part of what they’re hired to do.

But that’s not what they did at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton. In fact, the College Progressives at SUNY successfully used a mob to disrupt a campus lecture thanks in large part to university administrators and officials.

In November 2019, the College Republicans, a recognized student group at SUNY-Binghamton, and Young America’s Foundation (YAF), planned on co-hosting an event about “Trump, Tariffs, and Trade Wars.” The speaker scheduled to give the lecture was Dr. Arthur Laffer, a renowned economist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

You would think that an event on economics, a fairly benign topic, wouldn’t greatly offend students. But this lecture generated strong backlash from members of the College Progressives student organization and a non-student group called Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (“PLOT”), who took it upon themselves to make sure the event was canceled.

The groups even secured support from SUNY-Binghamton officials, who violated students’ First Amendment rights in the process.

Watch what happened in the video below:

Four days before the event, College Republicans set up table on campus where they served hot chocolate and handed out event flyers. But thanks to the “progressive” student organization, 200 people gathered to “disrupt the disgusting event” by destroying the flyers, breaking down the table, and shouting insults. One female College Republican student was even physically assaulted.

But when university police arrived on the scene, they didn’t ask the mob to leave. Instead, they demanded that College Republicans vacate the area as the mob chanted, “Pack it up!”

The College Progressives and PLOT both announced on social media that they were going to “show up, speak out, and disrupt” the upcoming event as well, so YAF asked the university to make sure that the event would take place without a hitch. Yet on the day of the event, university officials not only admitted that they knew the protestors were planning to shut it down but tried to get YAF to cancel the event and scolded the conservative students for holding the event in the first place.

Ultimately, the university allowed the mob to win. Laffer was never even given the chance to speak. Protestors shouted him down with megaphones and security escorted him out of the lecture hall.

And SUNY-Binghamton officials chose to let it happen. In doing so, these officials violated the First Amendment by refusing to protect the free speech rights of the College Republicans and YAF because of their viewpoints. The message from university officials was clear: There’s no place for civil public discourse on this campus.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom is standing alongside YAF and College Republicans. Last year, ADF and King & Spalding attorneys filed a lawsuit to challenge the unconstitutional actions of the university.

It’s not progressive to respond to difficult ideas by simply refusing to let them be heard. If we’re to make true progress as a country, it’s essential that young adults learn how to face ideas they don’t like and defend the ones they do with respect and tolerance.

In order to pass on the blessings of our constitutional rights to future generations, we need to stand up for free speech. Our freedom matters, and we can’t wait for someone else to defend it.

Help preserve freedom, and share this video with others.

Caroline Roberts, Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts

Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts serves as a Strategic Communications Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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