Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a conservative student group at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) filed a federal lawsuit against the school last Wednesday after the students faced discrimination and threats of arrest from campus administrators.
University officials told members of the Turning Point USA chapter at the school that they could not hand out pocket constitutions and talk to students about the First Amendment because the members were not standing in one of the university’s two Orwellian “free speech zones.”
GVSU police and administrators told club founder Tim McKeeby and member Joe Tucker that they would be arrested for trespassing if they didn’t cease their pro-free speech activism. In one incident, campus police told the students “if you continue to stay here, then we’ll need to arrest you.”
Tim McKeeby and Joe Tucker weren’t the first students to face this kind of discrimination from campus administrators.
In March of 2005, the College Republicans at GVSU held a so-called “affirmative action bake sale” – a bake sale where cookies and cupcakes were sold at different prices to whites and minorities, men and women, etc. This bake sale was, of course, a parody meant to highlight how affirmative action devalues individuals as a mere product of their identity.
When campus administrators caught wind of what the College Republicans did, the university charged them with a violation of the student code and threatened sanctions against the club. Fearing repercussions, the College Republicans folded under pressure and apologized for the bake sale.
Mary Lyon, GVSU’s associate vice president for university communications, told Campus Reform that “free speech” zones and other speech restrictions at GVSU exist “not to regulate content, but rather time, manner, and place so that the educational mission is not disrupted.”
These allegedly content-free speech codes have not been enforced equally.
The Grand Valley Lanthorn, a far-left student-run paper at GVSU, described a demonstration outside of the “free speech” zones held by the NAACP and Black Lives Matter in September:
A march starting at Kleiner Commons kicked the GVSU event off. “No justice, no peace, racism must cease,” participants chanted. “Our people united will never be defeated.” The march went through the Mary Idema Pew Library and into Kirkhof Center, where the demonstrators linked arms and stood in silence for 10 minutes. When the demonstration went outside to the Cook Carillon Tower, different student organizations took turns speaking about why people of color and the colored community at GVSU matter.
Other left-wing groups were also allowed to violate the allegedly content-neutral speech codes.
On Nov. 16, Joe Tucker observed a large crowd of students holding signs and marching around campus outside of the two small speech zones as they protested the recent election of Donald Trump. The student protesters stood directly outside of the Student Services Building, shouted slogans, and even went inside of the Student Services Building for a period of time.
Tucker did not observe any GVSU administrator or campus police officer approach the students or order them to stop engaging in their activities as had occurred with the Turning Point USA students.
The lawsuit, Turning Point USA at Grand Valley State University v. The Trustees of Grand Valley State University, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, asks the court to prohibit enforcement of the GVSU Speech Zone Policy and declare it to be a violation of the students’ freedoms protected under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.