Pennsylvania State University: Cancellation of Student-Organized Event Featuring Proud Boys Founder Amid Lack of Response to Violence Against Protesters

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Pennsylvania State University - University Park

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Case Overview

On October 24, 2022, after weeks of standing by its First Amendment obligations in the face of  immense pressure to deplatform a controversial student-hosted comedy show featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and conservative comedian Alex Stein, Pennsylvania State University canceled the event citing a “threat of escalating violence.” Hours before the event’s scheduled start-time, hundreds of protesters descended upon the school to object to the event. On October 25, FIRE wrote Penn State to demand transparency regarding the circumstances leading to the cancellation of the event and to remind the institution that it must take the least speech-restrictive means to ensure safety on campus. We also reminded the university it is obliged to respond to any threats to speakers’ and protesters’ First Amendment-protected activity.