Heartland Institute Experts Comment on South Carolina College Student’s Lawsuit against Free-Speech Zones

Published February 26, 2016

College student and libertarian activist Ross Abbott filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the free-speech zone at the University of South Carolina violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Truth in Media reported on Thursday that Abbott’s rights were allegedly violated after university administrators threatened to expel him over allowing the College Libertarians chapter to display posters showing how other universities censor free speech and expression. Numerous individuals claimed the posters displayed in the university’s free-speech zone were offensive.

The following statements from experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/377-4000.

“Mr. Abbott should be applauded for having the audacity to stand up to the administration and the board of trustees at the University of South Carolina and fight for his First Amendment rights.

“Universities are supposed to be places of free expression and thought. The board disregards that principle by instituting policies that restrict basic constitutional rights. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gave the university a ‘red light’ ranking last December because its policies stifle the right to free expression and speech.

“Governor Nikki Haley serves on the board as an ex-officio member. She should use her power to demand fellow members pass a resolution that immediately reaffirms free expression and speech rights on campus.”

Kyle Maichle
Project Manager, Constitutional Reform
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]tland.org

“I applaud Ross Abbott for standing up to University of South Carolina (USC) officials for his First Amendment rights. The irony is that USC was attempting to punish Abbott over posters displaying other institutions’ restriction of free speech. This irony would be humorous if it was not such an indictment on the lack of freedom in our institutions of higher learning.

“Higher education should be about fostering free thought and discussing the hard ideas, not turning students into delicate, bubble-wrapped snowflakes afraid of their own shadows.”

Lennie Jarratt
Project Manager, Education Transformation
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Afraid of a little free speech? Who knew Gamecock administrators could be so chicken?

“Three cheers for Mr. Abbott for bringing forward this lawsuit. No student at any college at any time should be deprived by school officials of his or her ability to exercise constitutionally protected speech. Colleges are supposed to nurture and support the free exchange of ideas, not shut it down.

“Hopefully, Mr. Abbott’s action has the dual effect of ending the un-American free-speech zone at the University of South Carolina while simultaneously helping other students find the courage necessary to fight freedom-of-speech restrictions on their campuses.”

Tim Benson
Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.