University of Northwestern: Administration Denies Conservative Student Group’s Request to Host Speaker Over Controversial Views


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Case Overview


FIRE wrote a letter to the University of Northwestern on June 13, 2019, after UNW denied a request by a student chapter of Young Americans for Freedom to host conservative columnist Star Parker — a request denied in part because of Parker’s pro-life viewpoints. In refusing the group’s speaker, UNW explained that Parker is a “lightning rod” that “puts things in a strong way” and “pushes the envelope,” resulting in a “provocative” event likely to “draw attention.” The administration further stated that, despite hosting Parker twice previously, “we really don’t bring speakers who radically hold beliefs that UNW as a whole would not agree with.”

FIRE’s letter explained how this viewpoint-based rejection of a student group’s proposed speaker is inconsistent with UNW’s promise to uphold free speech. After the university’s one-sentence response left these concerns unaddressed, FIRE wrote a second letter to UNW on July 11 criticizing UNW’s refusal to remedy the situation, or engage in a good-faith discussion of its merits, despite hiring a public relations firm to deal with the reputational fallout from this incident.