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Sunday, February 25, 2018
Colleges Promise Not to Punish Students for Activism
Few places have served as more fertile hotbeds for social and political protest in the United States than university campuses. In the 1960s' and 70's, they were hotbeds of activity, both violent and peaceful. At Kent State University in 1970, the National Guard fired into crowds of unarmed students protesting America's involvement in the Vietnam war, killing four people and wounding more.
In recent years, campuses have grappled with the tension between First Amendment rights to free expression, and safety concerns. The invitation of controversial speakers like Milo Yiannopolous spark outrage, challenging the difficulty of protecting all forms of speech.
It has been just over a week since a gunman murdered seventeen students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglass Highschool in Parkland, Florida. In that time, the country has witnessed perhaps the largest mobilization of student protest movements in decades: #NeverAgain. Not everyone is welcoming this crusade, and school district officials across the country have warned potential student protestors that they may be suspended or expelled.
American universities are striking back. At present, close to a hundred colleges and universities across the country have issued formal statements to incoming freshman, assuring them that a protest-related suspension or expulsion from high school will not disqualify them from admission.
Typically, universities reserve the right to rescind admissions offers to students who commit crimes or have other disciplinary violations during the second semester of their senior year. These assurances make a strong statement about the preservation of this freedom of assembly and expression, no matter the political context.
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