Prof. Lasson: DeVos Invitation Is In Keeping with Free Speech Rights
September 15, 2017
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
Kenneth Lasson, professor in the University of Baltimore School of Law, writes in The Baltimore Sun that UB's invitation to have U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos serve as keynote speaker at its fall Commencement is in keeping with the understanding that "universities should countenance different, even controversial, points of view."
"There is certainly nothing wrong with stating one's opinion about the propriety of a particular speaker prior to an invitation. And choosing peacefully to protest a speech—or choosing not to attend in the first place—is likewise in the best traditions of the First Amendment," Lasson writes. "But to demand a disinvitation is both impolitic and counter-productive. It amounts to a latter-day version of the 'heckler's veto,' which in its original Supreme Court application would have permitted police to remove a speaker if his or her presentation were deemed likely to foment a riot. Civil libertarians have long argued in favor of supporting the free-speech rights of all speakers, however unpopular."
Lasson laments that a number of universities acrss the country have been compelled to withdraw invitations to controversial speakers. He cites the "Disinvitation Database," which claims a record number of campuses inviting controversial speakers, and then withdrawing them under pressure.
"[U]niversities should countenance different, even controversial, points of view," Lasson says.
Read the op-ed in The Baltimore Sun.