DePaul preemptively deflates 'free speech ball' event

DePaul University administrators forbade the school’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter from hosting a “free speech ball” event on October 10, because it would create “an environment which invites hate.”

DePaul senior Thomas Barry, a founder of the new YAL chapter, submitted a request earlier this year to roll a 9-foot-tall inflatable free speech ball around campus, upon which passersby could write messages, as part of YAL’s National Fight for Free Speech Campaign.

Four days before the event was to take place, however, DePaul’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs informed him that his event would not be permitted.

“The university has done more research on the nature of the ‘free speech ball,’” the administrator wrote, expressing a concern that the ball would create, “an environment which invites hate.”

[RELATED: Cops tell activists their ‘free speech ball’ ‘scared’ students]

Barry was then told if he continued to organize the event, the administration would halt the event and make sure all individuals involved would be “held accountable” for their actions.

When Barry asked how the administration would be holding him accountable, he received no response.

“I was surprised to have been shut down so quickly,” Barry told Campus Reform. “The Free Speech ball seemed like a good first step for us to assert our First Amendment rights on campus and test the administrative climate.”

Yet the DePaul administrative response reflects just how tense the political climate surrounding free speech has become on college campuses. At the beginning of this month, the YAL chapter at UC-San Diego rolled a free speech ball around campus only for the event to come to an abrupt halt when one student stabbed the ball multiple times with a knife.

[RELATED: Another free speech ball stabbed in Fresno]

“Administrators have accused us of ‘providing a platform for hate’ without providing anything to back up their claims,” Barry continued. “What we’ve been trying to establish is a platform for free speech. Somehow it seems that those two ideas are seen as one and the same here at DePaul.”

YAL’s National Fight for Free Speech campaign has helped revise 28 unconstitutional free speech codes and restore First Amendment Rights to 590,202 students, according to Alexander Staudt, director of free speech at Young Americans for Liberty.

“This is why we do what we do, this is why we fight for liberty and free speech,” Staudt told Campus Reform. “It is shocking to hear students not being allowed to advocate for their First Amendment rights.

Campus Reform reached out to DePaul University for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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