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GW President Regrets Decision Limiting Free Speech

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 16, 2022 | 0 Comments

At George Washington University (GW), a student was reprimanded for creating artworks with what was perceived as offensive content. After political posters criticizing the Chinese government's treatment of the Uyghur population and subsequent mass spying campaigns were put up on campus, subsequent discrimination claims from student groups called for “severe punishment” for the student-artist. GW interim President Mark Wrighton stated in a message leaked on Twitter that the “university will undertake an effort to determine who is responsible…[and] remove the posters as soon as possible,” according to a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Free speech advocates were outraged by Wright's response to the posters. Wright quickly issued a statement backtracking his initial response, claiming he “responded hastily” and that the university staff's decision to remove the posters were “mistakes.”

Reversing Executive Action

“I have since learned...the posters were designed by a Chinese-Australian artist, Badiucao, and they are a critique of China's policies,” Wrighton explained. “Upon full understanding, I do not view these posters as racist; they are political statements...the university will not take any action against the students who displayed the posters.”

Badiucao's artwork didn't violate any regulation found in GW's Code of Student Conduct. His speech was neither discriminatory nor disorderly. Yet, Badiucao's works were targeted for removal by the university by the school's president.

Persecution by Peers

Such a development shows that even though a student at GW—or any other U.S. college or university—may believe their First Amendment right to free speech will be protected by the government, as soon as you step foot on campus, those rights are understood to ebb and flow with the political and social climate. Even if the university president walked back his claims, the student could face genuine peril from ostracism by the student body.

Ostracism—in this case by students who expressed the same personal opinion as Wrighton—can leave a student feeling like there isn't anyone on their side. This could open the door to harassment that can negatively affect a student's performance at school and even present conditions for the student to become a victim of false accusations.

Unwavering Free Speech Advocate

In a world of instability, you need an advisor to help you through the ever-changing winds of popular opinion. Threats to free speech aren't only academic in their concern. Increasingly, codes of conduct governing student life in colleges and universities across the country prohibit students, faculty, and staff from engaging in any speech or expression that offends rather than discriminates. These novel speech codes can upend critical inquiry and make the pursuit of knowledge fraught with potential misconduct charges

If you have been subject to pressure from your school, you need expert advice from a proven student defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney-advisor with unparalleled experience defending his student clientele across the United States from overreaching college disciplinary boards. Attorney Lento and his dedicated team at the Lento Law Firm understand the hazards of campus life today and they can help you overcome the associated challenges. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a Lento Law Firm consultation or use the online service.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.

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