The climate for free speech at Flagler College just went from bad to worse.
Last month, student Kelli Huck’s prospective Young Americans for Liberty chapter was denied recognition by the school’s Student Government Association for “trending towards one certain political agenda.” Now, administrators are trying to stop Huck from hosting a “free speech ball” event on campus tomorrow morning, claiming that only registered student groups can host campus events.
In short, Flagler argues that only students who receive permission from its administration can speak freely on campus.
Earlier today, Huck mentioned to some professors that she would be rolling a free speech ball around Flagler’s campus from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and explained that she would be “asking students to exercise their first amendment rights and write whatever they want on the ball.” Huck asked the professors if they could mention this during their classes as a way of promoting the event.
Huck was soon contacted by Director of Student Activities Timothy Mellon, who told her during a meeting with Vice President of Student Services Daniel Stewart that only registered student groups could hold events on Flagler’s grounds. Huck, whose prospective Young Americans for Liberty chapter had been denied by the Student Government Association multiple times, could not do so.
“I am astounded that a leader in higher education has chosen to deny the right to free speech not only to myself, but to other students at Flagler College,” Huck told FIRE.
Huck’s troubles with free expression go back months. Flagler’s student government has twice denied Huck’s request for official recognition of a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.
In a rejection email to Huck after her second attempt at official recognition, Student Government Association President Caitlin Croley wrote, in part that, “Our voting membership felt as if the club was still trending towards one certain political agenda and that there was a resistance to work with other on-campus organizations.”
On March 16, 2017, FIRE wrote to Flagler College to explain that the Student Government Association’s viewpoint-based rejection of YAL cannot stand at a college that proclaims to allow its students to engage in the marketplace of ideas. FIRE requested a response to the letter by today. Flagler has offered no reply.
Tomorrow, FIRE plans to write Flagler — for the second time this month — to remind Flagler of its free speech obligations and that, consistent with those obligations, it cannot require that students be members of student groups to exercise their free speech rights.
Huck still plans to host her event tomorrow morning despite the college’s resistance.
You can reach Flagler on Twitter at @FlaglerCollege or on Facebook. You can also reach Flagler President William Abare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us in asking Flagler College to uphold free speech and freedom of association on campus.