Georgetown Law School Won't Let Students Campaign for Bernie Sanders

Violating obvious free speech and political rights.

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Bernie Sanders
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Georgetown University is wildly confused about its free speech obligations: the law school recently barred students from campaigning for Bernie Sanders on campus, citing misplaced concerns that doing so violates IRS law.

A group of Georgetown law students attempted to set up a table and distribute pro-Sanders literature, but an administrator quickly shut them down because their actions threatened the university's tax-exempt status, she said.

The administrator is wrong. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Georgetown's tax-exempt status is not undermined by students engaging in political activity. Indeed, students have every right to express opinions and engage in speech—including and especially political speech:

 "Every campaign season, FIRE sees private colleges erroneously tell students that they can't campaign for their candidate because it would threaten the school's tax exemption," said FIRE Senior Program Officer Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon. "That's just not correct. As the IRS has made clear, and as FIRE has emphasized repeatedly throughout the years, nonprofit restrictions on political campaigning apply to the institution itself, not to students or student groups."

The College Fix's Greg Piper writes that "you'd think a bunch of lawyers would understand this distinction," and on that point, I disagree with him. I've found that law school students and administrators are frequently the most mixed-up people on campus, when it comes to free speech. [Related: Law Students Wrote This Unconstitutional, Ungrammatical Speech Code: 'Do Not Comment Despairingly on Others']

Despite what Georgetown administrators currently believe, a college campus is an excellent place to try to persuade other people to support (or oppose) a particular political candidate.

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66 responses to “Georgetown Law School Won't Let Students Campaign for Bernie Sanders

  1. Georgetown University is wildly confused about its free speech obligations: the law school recently barred students from campaigning for Bernie Sanders on campus, citing misplaced concerns that doing so violates IRS law.

    The fact that there’s a possibility of violating IRS law by having students campaign for this or that candidate says all you need to know about chilling effects.

    1. It’s also amazingly ironic that it would be a tax revenue law that would negatively impact Bernie.

      1. I was just snickering about that very thing.

    2. At least this kind of legal idiocy would never happen at a law school.

      1. Also, I find it hard to believe that there is no precedent for on-campus campaigning at Georgetown.

  2. OT: Thank Crom for the boost in interest rates.

    Investors aren’t the only ones running for safety as the market tumbles and the economy wobbles.

    Businesses, too, are indicating an unwillingness to take on risk as loan demand declined for the first time in about four years, according to the Federal Reserve’s Senior Loan Officer Survey released this week.

    1. They knew they could never do it without bad stuff happening, so they figured they’d rip off the bandaid. Well, here we are. Bleeding.

      1. No, they lifted it slightly and realized it was covering gangrene.

  3. LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY!

    I can’t stand Sanders. He’s a bum. His ideas lead to gulags. He makes people poorer financially and intellectually.

    But for the love of God, let FREEDOM REIGN!

    1. But he likes to feel like he supports the middle class. And so do his numerically challenged supporters.

  4. Can we have an article dissecting how the hell anything Bernie is saying is constitutional? Did I miss it?

    1. Hey, he’s in good health for an old guy, even if he is unconstitutional.

      1. How old was Dear Great Supreme Leader Reagan when he assumed the Presidency?

        1. Urine the right ballpark.

        2. 70? Comrade sanders is 75

          1. Close enough. He was a couple weeks shy of 70. Sanders is 74 but will be 75 by the time the next President is inaugurated.

          2. And Hillery will be barely six months younger than Reagan if she takes office.

            1. And Hillery will be barely six months younger than Reagan if she takes office.

              If?! What’s with all the pessimism?

    2. Georgetown is private from what I know and the idea it has actual obligations to defending free speech beyond what is included in the university’s policy is extreme.

      I also question the way Reason seems to equate campaigning for someone as merely free speech though that would certainly be included.

      1. Could you, I don’t know, RTFA and comment on what it actually says?

        1. Oh, FFS. Why does the subhed say something totally different from the article?

          SOAVE!

          1. ::snort::

            I’m not touching this one.

      2. Title IX forces colleges to deny due process rights in rape cases, and this is considered perfectly normal. But suggest that it should also mean colleges should have to uphold 1A rights, and academia will look at you as if you’re some sort of freak.

        Suggesting colleges should have tu uphold 2A rights is even more freaky.

        (Not that I necessarily want the government forcing non-state schools to uphold the 1A, since the government will misuse such a power.)

        1. A gross misinterpretation of Title IX forces colleges to deny due process rights in rape cases

          FIFY.

          1. You’re right; I just don’t have the patience to be that nuanced when I’m posting from my smartphone.

        2. Well Ted, if they don’t want the state’s chains on them then they should stop taking the state’s money.

      3. “I also question the way Reason seems to equate campaigning for someone as merely free speech…”

        Other than expressing an opinion or an argument to persuade, what would you equate it to?

    3. Commerce clause and FYTW.

    4. Can we have an article dissecting how the hell anything Bernie is saying is constitutional?

      What Bernie is saying is speech. All speech is protected by the Constitution. Therefore everything that Bernie says is Constitutional.

  5. What’s the saying? You gotta a write a law so simply that even lawyers can understand it.

  6. restrictions on political campaigning apply to the institution itself, not to students

    “Restrictions on speeding apply to the vehicle itself, not to occupants.”

    1. Bumblebee. Nough said.

  7. Good for them! I’m all for free speech–except when women start talking about getting raped or anything having to do with implementing the proto/crypto-fascist ideas brought to us by SJWs. That last stuff should be banned.

    1. You should take your meds, AmSoc. You’re hallucinating again.

      1. I bet that reads as a stunning blow to him. “Ah-ha! Let’s see those libertardians recover from that!”

        1. So original, right? No one here has ever read anything like it: I’ll bet it took him hours to think that up!
          I’m devastated! Or not.

      2. It’s a troll who has been caught lying, repeatedly.

        His name is Tulpa.

    2. Nobody here apart from your ilk has ever advocated banning speech, you incoherent fool.

    3. Um, it’s #BernVictims like you who support banning political speech, not us.

  8. I’m all for free speech rights, but then I also feel that Georgetown has a duty to protect the brand image of its program. If Georgetown becomes associated with morons, that hurts everyone: Georgetown, their graduates, future graduates and even the students in question.

    1. But showing that they do not understand the law does nothing good for Georgetown’s reputation either. It is a lose-lose proposition at best.

    2. I dont see how free speech applies on a private campus.

      1. I dont see how free speech applies on a private campus.

        ^^This.

      2. They take Federal money, thus not so private and bound by the rules the FedGov made in exchange for giving that money.

        1. Seems mire a contractual obligation than a rights issue.

    3. Sweeping morons under the rug is hardly a defensive strategery.

  9. I’m all for free speech rights, but

    That is all I had to read. Agreed.

    1. Get real. You only like the but part.

      1. Free speech does not apply to butts.

        1. Especially not in a crowded theater.

  10. The school believes a Sanders administration will make them pay taxes?

  11. Georgetown University is wildly confused about its free speech

    Please note the bolded word in that sentence and tell me how that was not a huge clue as to what should be expected of said organization?

  12. “you’d think a bunch of lawyers would understand this distinction,””

    Spoken like a man who’s never sat in a room full of lawyers.

    There’s one super-important thing all lawyers understand = who pays them.

    And anything that threatens the thing that pays them must be neutralized/destroyed ASAP.

  13. I appreciate the delicious circumstance that students whose candidate wants to hollow out freedom of speech protections are having their speech suppressed by the institution they are associated with.

  14. The way the current pontiff is running Holy Mother Church, I’m shocked Sanders isn’t required reading in the theology class at Georgetown.

    And if he wins the whole deal, how long before he wins the second Nobel Prize For Bringing America Down A Peg?

    1. I’m not sure if William Peter Blatty has yet managed to exorcise all the anti-Catholic nonsense from Georgetown.

  15. Georgetown University, as a private university (also a Catholic/Jesuit one) plays by different rules. If it wants to put arbitrary restrictions on the free speech of it’s students, it’s largely free to do so. Many private universities put arbitrary restrictions on their students, staff and faculty.

    That said, it’s not *obligated* to do so.

    So Georgetown is in the wrong on what they’re required to do (stop students from politicking), but they’re in the right on what they can do (stop students from politicking).

    1. All null and void when you cash that government check.

      1. Dang. I want my tax refund, but I also want my Bill of Rights.

      2. Bullshit.

        You cant sell your freedom of association.

        1. You can if you’re a university that whored itself out to the government. Either stop accepting stolen money or deal with the consequences that come with accepting it.

    2. Thank you for pointing this out. Honestly, a lot of people (including this site?) don’t really get the purpose of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

      “The Constitution and the Bill of Rights only limit the actions of the government, not private parties. Therefore, freedom of speech does not apply to the private workplace, and the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to carry a gun in the office.”

      That being said, context matters. If the students were trying to present the appearance that the school supported Sanders, that’s an easy shut down of activities. If they were just trying to hold a meeting or something and went through the proper channels, why not. Ultimately though, school can say no to anyone they feel like, for any reason, at any time… It’s their property.

  16. “the law school recently barred students from campaigning for Bernie Sanders on campus, citing misplaced concerns that doing so violates IRS law.”

    Obviously a great bunch of legal minds running that… er… law school.

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