College Republicans Prevented from Protesting Speaker [Transcript]

January 6, 2006

[This interview aired on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes show on Friday, January 6, 2006, at approximately 9:40 p.m. ET.]

[...]

HANNITY: Meanwhile, the College Republicans of DePaul University in Chicago say that the university tried to violate their free speech. The group protested a campus appearance by the controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. But prior to the protest, the university banned the group from posting fliers, and they also changed the rules to prevent the group from attending Churchill’s workshop.

The college has since lifted their ban, but the question remains: did DePaul censor free expression on its campus?

Joining us now, the president of DePaul College Republicans, Joe Blewitt, and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Greg Lukianoff.

First off, I want to just, Joe, start with you. Explain exactly what happened, because for obvious reasons, based on what this guy said, he certainly deserved to be protested. I thought free speech was allowed to take place on college campuses, but they denied that opportunity.

JOE BLEWITT: That’s two of us. It’s true. When our organization first saw Ward Churchill being billed and advertised at DePaul as a dynamic, prolific speaker chock full of human rights speeches and, you know, he’s the perfect speaker to give that sort of rundown on human rights in the world, we knew we had to do something about it. And what do we do, make posters. As simple as that is, that’s what landed me here right now.

HANNITY: And they — explain how they changed the rules.

BLEWITT: We submitted our posters for approval just like any student organization has to do. And after much consideration, they decided that the posters were propaganda, lies and rumors intending to injure.

HANNITY: Because you told the truth — because basically you told the truth about what he said?

BLEWITT: The posters had direct quotes from Churchill’s own writings.

HANNITY: Well, you know, Greg, this is happening on college campuses around the country.

GREG LUKIANOFF, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION: All over the country.

HANNITY: You don’t support this, Greg. You believe in free speech, Greg. You’re a great American. Sure, right? Even though you may slant to the left?

LUKIANOFF: Absolutely. I mean, it’s one of these remarkable things that we have to explain. Yes, we’re willing to defend the free speech rights on even a Ward Churchill, but the idea that you can’t protest someone’s opinion, you can’t protest their appearance on campus, that’s nonsense. I mean, DePaul is a basket case.

HANNITY: But this is now what is happening around colleges all around the country. What I’m urging students to do around the country is — and they have to check their state laws, their local laws, university laws. I don’t want anyone to break the law and get in trouble and blame Hannity, because then I’ll get sued.

But what they’ve got to do is, when able, they’ve got to tape these professors and they’ve got to bring these tapes to shows like this, my radio show, other outlets…

LUKIANOFF: Sure.

HANNITY: … the new media, and you’ve got to expose these professors. We had one professor, we had this young girl who had an incident with a professor who attacked her. And he ended up having to resign, because she exposed him and had the courage to do so.

Do you guys — do you have a lot of those professors, those types of professors on the campus?

BLEWITT: Well, we wanted to record what Churchill was saying, either audio or visual, but when we requested that of the university, they said no.Absolutely not. Ward Churchill specifically gave instructions we cannot record this.

HANNITY: What would have happened if you did go in and record it? Would you have been thrown out of school?

BLEWITT: It’s hard to say, because they make up rules after the fact for us.

LUKIANOFF: Right.

COLMES: Hey, Greg and Joe, it’s Alan. Thank you both for doing this.

By the way, if Hannity needs a lawyer, I’ll be happy to get an ACLU lawyer to help you out. So don’t worry about that. I’ll help you out there.

HANNITY: Thanks.

COLMES: Let me ask you, Greg. Now look, you didn’t want him to speak, right?

LUKIANOFF: I’m sorry?

COLMES: I mean Joe. Let me ask Joe. You didn’t want him to speak on campus. You protested his appearance. Did you not want…?

LUKIANOFF: We defended the right of Ward Churchill to speak.

COLMES: Did you not want him to speak?

LUKIANOFF: We defended the right of Ward Churchill to speak. We also defend the right of people to protest people that they think are a waste of the university’s money.

COLMES: But you didn’t want him — you didn’t want him on campus?

LUKIANOFF: Are you asking Joe or me?

COLMES: Sorry. Joe, you didn’t want him on campus?

BLEWITT: I would prefer he not be on campus, but the fact that he was, is — he is there. He is coming. That is a set fact.

COLMES: Right.

BLEWITT: So we should have the opportunity. The same opportunity that he has to speak, we should also have. We pay a lot of money to go to that university, and our money is going to him.

COLMES: But I think the university didn’t handle it well. And I think you’re right. Everybody should be allowed to speak. But I’m a little troubled by the idea that you may not have wanted him there because you don’t like him, don’t agree with him, think he — maybe you think he’s a bad guy. And you know, if you want to be heard, which I think you should be heard, you should embrace other points of view as well, no matter how diametrically opposed from yours they are.

LUKIANOFF: Let’s focus on what DePaul did here, though. Just as important as they have the right to invite Ward Churchill, these students have the right to disagree with that choice.

COLMES: Yes, they do.

LUKIANOFF: And they came up with all sorts of new rules and they decided–they suddenly banned, quote unquote, “propaganda”? I mean, come on.

COLMES: They handled it poorly. I agree with you.

LUKIANOFF: They handled it extremely poorly. And I believe the focus should be on DePaul, where it belongs, because DePaul has a history of when they don’t like someone’s point of view, when they actually are faced with actual dissent — they claim to endorse free speech at one moment, but then when they actually are faced with dissent, they try to squelch it.

COLMES: And Joe, then they didn’t want the College Republicans — they forbid you from — they forbade you from going to the event. Were they were concerned you would disrupt the event, and would you have disrupted the event?

BLEWITT: No, certainly not. We would have availed ourselves of that opportunity to open up the free dialogue that we wanted in the first place. We were invited by the university V.P., Jim Doyle, to attend that event. Shortly after signing my group up, I was informed that it was by invitation only.

COLMES: You weren’t trying to disrupt his speech, get in the way or his presentation, or do anything to disrupt his appearance at the university?

BLEWITT: No, we didn’t. And in fact, members of my organization did attend his speech with no problems. The speech went off without a hitch. But we were excluded from the debate that went on afterwards.

COLMES: All right, Greg, where do we go from here? What happens next in this case?

LUKIANOFF: Well, DePaul has a nasty history, so we’re going to stay on them. And we have two maxims at FIRE. One of them is that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and it’s worked here.

HANNITY: We have to…

LUKIANOFF: The university has backed off for now. And — and the other is to be ever vigilant.

HANNITY: All right, guys. Thanks for being with us. Good luck to you.

Schools: DePaul University Cases: DePaul University: Censorship of Student Group Protesting Ward Churchill