Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Wednesday to inform Southern Illinois University Edwardsville that its stifling of a student’s speech based on her viewpoint is unconstitutional. ADF attorneys represent Maggie DeJong, a student in the master’s in art therapy counseling program, after the university demanded that she have no contact or even “indirect communication” with three classmates after they complained that DeJong’s viewpoint would not be “welcome or appropriate.”
The university’s “no contact” orders against DeJong apply both on and off campus. The orders do not provide any justification for the punishment imposed. In fact, the university acknowledged that the orders are “not an indication of responsibility for violation of University policy.” The only explanation provided is “upon information and belief that interactions between yourself [and the other students] would not be welcome or appropriate at this time.” The orders further indicate that they will remain in place for the entire semester.
“Universities, especially classrooms where topics are supposed to be vigorously debated, should be marketplaces of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thinking,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Maggie has always respectfully expressed her viewpoint in class, which every student is entitled to do under the First Amendment. The university must immediately rescind the no contact orders and revise its policies to adequately safeguard students’ constitutional rights.”
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ADF’s letter explains that “the no contact orders are infringing upon Ms. DeJong’s ability to fully participate in her educational experience and exercise her First Amendment rights.” The letter also states that to avoid legal action, the university must immediately rescind the no contact orders against DeJong.