"Sue the Bastards" Works For University Students
Berkeley Pays $70K, And Must Stop Stifling Free Speech on Campus
Angered by the cancellation of a on-campus speaking event by Ann Coulter, and road blocks put in front of a speech by Ben Shapiro, students sued, and were joined by the Department of Justice which filed a legal statement of interest supporting them.
As part of a legal settlement, the University of California, Berkeley, had to pay $70,000, rescind its unconstitutional "High-Profile Speaker Policy" and its viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.
It also had to abolish its heckler's veto policy, so students will no longer be able to shout down speakers they don't want other students to be able to hear.
This also means, says Banzhaf, that the University will no longer be permitted to impose a curfew on unpopular events, or relegate controversial speakers to remote inconvenient speaking venues.
Banzhaf has long advocated using civil actions against not only demonstrators who engage in illegal and often violent acts which abridge academic freedom, but also against colleges and universities which yield to them in violation of students' constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment.
There have been a growing number of situations in which schools violate academic freedom and the free speech rights of students, and the faculty - including those who profess great concern about these issues - do nothing.
So, suggests Banzhaf, one answer is to "Sue the Bastards" - including not just the university as an entity, but also its president, high administration officials, and even faculty who cooperate.
Such law suits, as well as those based upon violations of due process rights in disciplinary cases, have often been successful, not only against the school, but also against presidents and college officials.
In addition to the major life disruption which may be involved in defending against a law suit, the legal actions, which may take a long time to settle or reach a legal conclusion, can adversely affect an administrator's credit, ability to purchase a home, etc., says Banzhaf.
Especially now that the Department of Justice had indicated a willingness to side with students when their universities violate their constitutional rights, it's time for students to realize that suing the bastards on their campus may be much more effective than simply holding another student demonstration.
Prof. Banzhaf has been called "One of America's Premier Legal Activists," "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars."
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418