Between April and August 2016, DePaul University banned political chalking on campus and twice prohibited students from inviting controversial speakers. In April, when the DePaul College Republicans used chalk to write messages supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on sidewalks at the university’s Lincoln Park campus. Finding the messages to be “inflammatory,” the grounds crew removed the chalkings. DePaul later informed students that they could not chalk partisan messages on campus due to the university’s status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity.
After the chalking ban, the College Republicans invited controversial activist Milo Yiannopoulos and secured outside funding for the May 24 event, despite outcry from some DePaul students. DePaul initially attempted to limit the attendance of the event and required the group to pay nearly $1000 to hire additional security. When the event took place, protestors quickly stormed the stage. When the hired security failed to act, the College Republicans called the Chicago Police, who also failed to intervene, reportedly on DePaul’s orders.
In July, DePaul rejected the College Republicans’ plans to re-invite Yiannopoulos, citing his “inflammatory-speech” and security concerns. Weeks later, the university informed DePaul’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter that it could not invite conservative journalist Ben Shapiro because of “security concerns,” due to the fact that Shapiro’s presence had been met with protest at other universities.
FIRE wrote to DePaul on September 8, 2016, demanding that the university honor the free speech promises it makes to students, revise its policy limiting political speech, and cease the practice of banning controversial speakers because objecting students might cause disruption.