Southern New Hampshire University says it allows controversial speakers
The College Republicans at Southern New Hampshire University, along with a national free speech group, want clarity on the approval process to host speakers on campus this semester.
The controversy stems from comments that events administrator Denise Morin allegedly made to Kyle Urban, the president of the student GOP group, when the group hosted Republican congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt.
“We were first made aware of this ‘controversial speakers’ policy when we were trying to host [New Hampshire Republican] Karoline Leavitt who is running for U.S. Congress,” Urban told NH Journal. “The administration eventually let us host an event with her.”
“But they limited it to SNHU students only, which reduced the number of people who could attend.”
Morin allegedly told Urban that the “university must substantively review and approve all proposed speakers to ensure they are ‘not so controversial that they would draw unwanted demonstrators’ to campus,” according to a letter sent by Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
The requirement is “not new and does not ban controversial speakers,” SNHU spokesperson Siobhan Lopez told The College Fix on September 16.
“[SNHU] seeks to promote and facilitate the exchange of innovative and diverse ideas, and we welcome speakers with a broad range of viewpoints and backgrounds to foster a diverse and rich educational experience for members of the University Community,” Lopez wrote. “Our policies are compliant with both state and federal laws and allow for the free flow of information and ideas while ensuring campus safety.”
Lopez referred The Fix to the SNHU “Speakers on Campus Policy,” effective October 2017.
“The University is committed to providing a forum for divergent points of view at speaker events but will take any precautions it deems necessary to ensure campus safety and prevent the disruption of University operations,” the policy states.
“Accordingly, the President, or his/her designee(s), reserve(s) the right to modify the circumstances (including time, location, public attendance, etc.) of an event or withdraw the invitation to speak in those cases where there exists a reasonably foreseeable risk of violence or substantial disruption of the essential operations of the University associated with an event.”
The Fix reached out again to SNHU on September 19 to ask whether they dispute FIRE’s understanding of the university’s review and approval process. The Fix also asked the university to clarify what, if anything, a speaker would need to say or do to be banned and whether any speakers have been barred from campus or required to speak under restricted conditions.
“Our policy and processes for speakers coming on campus are clearly outlined in the policy Siobhan [Lopez] provided last week,” representative Lauren Keane stated in an email sent later that day. “The comment published in FIRE is not part of our University-approved policy and procedure.”
But the College Republicans argue the university restricted access to Leavitt after a review.
“Rather than allowing the general public to attend, as is commonly the practice for speakers of public interest, the campus GOP was ordered to limit the invitation to students only,” according to NH Journal.
IMAGE: Southern New Hampshire University/Facebook