Last year, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at Ole Miss took part in Young America’s Foundation’s Freedom Week, an event held on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, during which students educate their peers about the reality and danger of the progressive social movement.
As part of Freedom Week, the Ole Miss YAF chapter constructed a mock “Berlin Wall” made of drywall at the famous “Grove” on campus. The students spray-painted the wall with “microaggressions,” “safe spaces,” and other terms leftists use in their attempts to squelch free speech and then tore down the mock Berlin Wall as a symbol of communism and tyranny.
The entire point of the Berlin Wall activity was to showcase how the anti-free speech policies pushed by campus leftists are creating a new “wall” between young people and freedom – a point which seemed to be lost on some of the campus administrators who appear to want to use thin excuses to punish the YAF chapter members for their speech.
Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and Ole Miss decided against punishing the students after YAF, represented by the Mississippi Justice Institute, threatened to sue the university for violating its members’ constitutional rights.
During the Berlin Wall activity, members of Ole Miss YAF were approached by university administrators and questioned about their activities. The administrators expressed their disapproval of the event, took notes about it, and then left.
A month after the Berlin Wall activity, the Ole Miss YAF chapter received a letter from the university’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct. The letter notified the YAF members of a report alleging that the organization had held an “unregistered event”.
Ole Miss has a policy that requires certain large, organized speaking events to be registered and approved by the university in advance. Ole Miss YAF’s Berlin Wall event did not meet any of the criteria to require registration, but out of an abundance of caution, the student group did submit a registration form four business days before the event. That same university policy that required certain events to be registered also said that applicants would receive a response within three business days.
After not receiving a response four business days later, and knowing that their event did not require registration to begin with, the Ole Miss YAF chapter went forward with their Berlin Wall activity. A month later, and after being questioned by campus administrators, they received the letter alleging that they held an “unregistered event.”
The YAF members were then informed that they would be subjected to a judicial review process to determine whether they had violated any university policies and whether any punishments should be imposed. Or, they could agree to an administrative punishment that would prevent them from registering any events for 30 days.
The Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI), a nonprofit constitutional litigation center, was retained by YAF and sent a letter to the university stating, among other things, that “Ole Miss YAF believes that its Berlin Wall activity was protected free speech” and that “if any of the University’s policies would have required prior approval by the University for Ole Miss YAF’s Berlin Wall activity, those policies would be unconstitutional for a variety of reasons.”
MJI’s letter also warned that “Ole Miss YAF considers the free speech rights of its members to be of the utmost importance to the members themselves, to the mission of Ole Miss YAF, and to society at large, and is, therefore, prepared to take further action to protect the rights of its members.”
After receiving MJI’s letter, officials at Ole Miss discussed the situation with MJI’s attorneys. Those officials indicated that the real concern may have been that YAF members used a mallet to destroy the mock Berlin Wall, even though the charge leveled against the students was for holding an “unregistered event.” The university officials did not even attempt to justify the university’s decision to charge YAF with holding an “unregistered event.”
Ultimately, the Ole Miss YAF students agreed not to bring a mallet to future Berlin Wall activities, and Ole Miss terminated the administrative proceedings against the student group. A win for free speech and common sense!
Read more about this case here.