Trump Agrees – “Sue the Bastards” To Protect Free Speech On Campus; Berkeley, Chapel Hill at NC, U Iowa, Even GWU Are Good Examples
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 2, 2019) – Although most of the attention to President Donald Trump‘s speech today seems focused on his threat to cut off federal funds to universities which do not protect free speech rights, he also mentioned another potent remedy which has already proven itself to be successful at many universities, including recently at Chapel Hill at North Carolina, the University of Iowa, and Berkeley itself, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Even a threat to sue a private university when it violates the free speech rights of students can be effective, says Banzhaf, pointing to how legal threats helped him to prevent his George Washington University from expelling a student for displaying a religious symbol on campus.
"Sue the Bastards," a slogan associated with Banzhaf, works as well if not better on universities than it does with tobacco companies, says Banzhaf, noting that Berkeley was recently forced to pay $70,000 - and eliminate a number of policies which stifle free speech - as a result of law suit by students.
Now the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which had taken down a student-created parody web site which ridiculed of the University, suddenly reversed its stance and restored the site, but only after receiving a threatening communication from a public-interest legal-action organization over its apparent violation of the First Amendment.
Earlier a federal judge found that the University of Iowa violated a Christian club's First Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion.
In his speech today, Trump suggested that a speaker who had been attacked there should sue Berkeley "and maybe sue the state."
This is similar to what Banzhaf recently wrote: "Especially now that the Department of Justice had indicated a willingness to side with students when their universities violate their constitutional rights, it's time for students to realize that suing the bastards on their campus may be much more effective than simply holding another student demonstration."
So, in addition to threatening to withhold federal funds, a tactic used so effectively by the Obama administration to pressure universities to crack down of campus sexual assaults, the Trump administration should also consider expanding its current policy of supporting students who bring free speech legal actions against their universities, suggests Banzhaf.
Prof. Banzhaf has been called "One of America's Premier Legal Activists," "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars."
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
http://banzhaf.net/ jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com @profbanzhaf