Letter: PSLS and CCR Urge the University of Toledo to Protect Student Speech Rights at Divestment Hearing
This morning, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent a letter to University of Toledo President Nagi Naganathan, urging the university to comply with its obligations under the First Amendment and Ohio’s Open Meetings Act. The letter was prompted by a series of repressive responses made by the University in the lead up to and during a February 17, 2015 Student Senate hearing on a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) resolution to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
The letter advises the University of Toledo that its scrutiny and limitation of SJP’s expressive conduct violates the First Amendment, and that actions taken by student government at a public college may be attributed to the University.
The letter states:
By explicitly targeting a particular viewpoint being expressed by SJP – one calling for justice and accountability for human rights violations – the University of Toledo’s actions strike at the heart of the First Amendment . . . . [T]he University of Toledo may not cherry-pick who may be present at hearings, bar students from listening to other students’ arguments or force students with differing viewpoints to sit in separate rooms. To do so casts exactly the type of “disapproval on particular viewpoints” the Supreme Court warned “risks the suppression of free speech and creative inquiry [on] university campuses.”
The letter goes on to state that the University violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act by barring the public’s attendance at the hearing, and restricting attendance of SJP members. The letter further warns that the decision to ultimately block student senators from voting on the resolution:
reveals a basic misunderstanding of the resolution and the law. The Supreme Court has held that ‘speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection.’ Boycotts ‘to bring about political, social and economic change’ involve speech, association and petition activities unquestionably protected under the First Amendment . . .
To read the full letter, click here.