90 Miles From Tyranny : How the Trump Administration Is Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How the Trump Administration Is Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses

Sarah Flores spoke at the White House’s Generation Next forum for millennials Thursday. As director of the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, she spoke about free speech on colleges campuses and the opioid crisis. The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness and The Federalist’s Bre Payton also asked her about being a “problematic woman.” An edited transcript of the interview is below.

Kelsey Harkness: We’re coming to you from the White House. There’s an event happening that’s focusing on millennials, so I wanted to start out this interview by asking about a recent action the Justice Department took on behalf of millennials on college campuses relating to free speech. Take it away.

Sarah Flores: We have this crisis across the country that’s just not getting the coverage that it should, frankly, and I’m so glad that you are talking about it, and obviously incredibly grateful to the president for hosting this event today, because I think it is so important.

I think if we were in college right now, we would be having a very different experience, or at least I know I would, because I spoke my mind in college. Right now, you can get expelled for that; you can get shut down for that.

What the Justice Department has done is tried to find those most egregious cases and filed what we call a statement of interest. But think of it as an amicus brief or a friend of the plaintiff, or defendant in some cases, to show that the federal government has an interest in protecting free speech on these college campuses.

The most recent one that’s certainly been a famous school for doing this is Berkeley. In that case, if you want to bring a speaker to campus, you’re the head of College Republicans, and you want to bring a speaker that they deem might be controversial on campus, well, you can’t have it at certain hours, you can’t have it at certain places.

What that means is, if the school thinks that you have a different viewpoint, they can really shut down your speech based on a hecklers’ veto idea. Which is really terrifying, because what’s the point of college if you can’t explore new ideas and challenge your viewpoint that you came to college with?

So, we feel pretty strongly about it. We filed in at least three of these cases. In another one, a student was handing out the U.S. Constitution and the school said he didn’t have a permit to do that, so he can’t hand out the Constitution.

Harkness: Now, are these all public schools that you’re engaging in? Are you engaging with private schools on this issue?

Flores: We have filed in public school cases, but obviously private schools accept a lot of federal dollars as well. I don’t think you’ve seen the end of this issue for...

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