On May 10th, Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky, defunded its student newspaper The Rambler in attempts to silence student voice. This is a direct violation to the freedom of the press and free speech.
University students are outraged.
In an article, Tom Eblen, Chapter President of The Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said, “Transylvania University’s decision to stop compensating the student staff and part-time professional adviser of its online student newspaper, The Rambler, looks like a blatant attempt to silence and control student voices.”
Within 24 hours of Transylvania defunding The Rambler, Transylvania University’s administration shut down a student group for petitioning to regain the freedom of speech on campus.
While the administration will cite fairness and safety for shutting down student speech, there is nothing safe or fair about censorship; there is nothing safe or fair about a university administration deciding what counts as allowable opinion.
Transylvania University is home to a “speech code” which requires all student expression to take place in a speech quarantine zone.
This “speech code” diminishes the values of Transylvania University, as the student handbook reads: “It is recognized that free speech is essential in a democratic society. In addition, allowing students the opportunity to hear views opposed to their own is essential to the liberal arts mission of Transylvania. Students have the right to free and open discourse without being censored on the basis of the content of their message.”
A survey was recently conducted at the university, where an astonishing 10% of the student body responded, and roughly 89% of those students said they do not believe such a speech code should exist.
Why is this censorship law in place if it is unwanted by students and a violation of the First Amendment?
TJ Roberts, student of Transylvania University and writer from the Lexington Herald Leader, writes, “We all can see that current policy creates a hostile environment for free speech and directly contradicts the values of education, the university, and its student body.If the university wanted to represent its student body, it would abolish this code.”
On Wednesday, May 1, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter of Transylvania University tabled on campus. According to Roberts, YDSA chapter followed none of these protocols and were permitted to table.
The next day, however, conservative students from the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Chapter at Transylvania University decided to set up a table to promote free speech at the same place, time, and manner.
Within two minutes of setting up, the administration decided to shut it down.
Why do the standards change for left-wing student groups?
YAF, with similar values as Turning Point USA, was brutally censored for doing nothing wrong.
Are Turning Point USA Chapters also at risk for being targeted for promoting their conservatism in the same way that socialism is promoted? While Transylvania University currently is not home to a TPUSA Chapter, there are chapters throughout the state of Kentucky.
A common argument is that private universities, like Transylvania University, have the right to shut down whatever voice they choose.
Universities, however, cannot silence student voices while also endorsing freedom of speech as protected under the First Amendment.
Roberts writes in an editorial, “When a university endorses freedom of speech in the code of conduct but then implements policies that create a hostile environment for free speech, that university is misleading its current and prospective students.”
The defunding of The Rambler and the institution’s speech codes are part of a free speech crisis happening at Transylvania University.
Students are currently at risk – and more are likely to be – if the freedom of speech continues to be censored with “speech codes”.