DePaul University: In Multiple Acts of Censorship, DePaul Bans Political Chalking and Two Controversial Speakers


DePaul University

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Case Overview


In April 2016, DePaul College Republicans used chalk to write messages supportive of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on campus sidewalks. Finding the messages “inflammatory,” the grounds crew removed the chalkings. DePaul later informed students that they could not chalk partisan messages on campus, supposedly 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 to campus 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 College Republicans to pay nearly $1,000 to hire additional security. Protesters nevertheless took the stage at the event, and the hired security failed to act. In response,  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 the university’s security concerns. Weeks later, the university informed DePaul’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter that it, also, would be barred from inviting a conservative journalist — in this case, Ben Shapiro — to campus, due to “security concerns” based on protests at other universities. FIRE wrote to DePaul on September 8, demanding that the university honor its free speech promises, revise its policy limiting political speech, and cease the practice of banning controversial speakers based on the possibility of disruption. On September 12, DePaul responded, criticizing FIRE for publicizing its letter, stating that students are permitted to share political messages in forums other than the sidewalk, and committing to revisit its expression policies.