Conservative group threatens to sue university over this 2019 incident
- Alliance Defending Freedom is threatening to sue the University of Wisconsin-River Falls over an incident that took place in 2019.
- During the incident, captured on video and first published by Campus Reform, an administrator confronts studnets.
- The students who were rolling a free speech ball were told to leave or police would be called.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has submitted a letter to the University of Wisconsin, River Falls urging the administration to remove any restraints that would prevent students from freely exercising their First Amendment rights--- or risk litigation.
According to the letter, current university policy is “vague" and "unconstitutional." ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton said, “the only permission slip students need to speak on public college campuses is the U.S. Constitution…”.
This letter is in response to an incident in Fall 2019 in which student Sofie Salmon was shut down by the administration while recruiting students for a conservative organization. Salmon was rolling a ‘free speech ball’ around campus with a few friends before she was stopped by an administrator who said they must reserve a space before engaging in free expression.
Campus Reform originally posted the video, in which the university administrator can be seen confronting Salmon and her friends. When asked what policy prevented them from being on campus, the administrator responded, “Um, I’m not going to know that off the top of my head.”
The administrator proceeds to say there are only two locations where ‘external guests’ are allowed to engage in speech. University police would be contacted to remove any individual who does not comply with the policy, the administrator added.
Salmon complied with the order, but later emailed the university administrator for more information about the policy and her rights as a student. She received no direct answer. ADF was able to locate the policy, but admitted that it “was not easily accessible by students."
In the letter to UWRF, ADF notes that the “...University’s policies restrict the content of expression, prohibit anonymous speech, prohibit spontaneous speech, and grant unbridled discretion to administrators who may approve or disapprove of the speech based on its content or viewpoint. Each restriction violates the First Amendment.”
ADF has requested that UWRF respond to their letter by February 24, locating the policy that prohibited Salmon from engaging in speech on campus and immediately revising the policy to allow students to engage in spontaneous outdoor speech.
In a statement to Campus Reform, the University of Wisconsin, River Falls said it, “...is [currently] reviewing the letter received from the Alliance Defending Freedom in consultation with the UW System Office of General Counsel.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for further comment in time for publication.
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