Silencing of law school speaker “distressing and ironic”

Photo via FIU Flickr.

Jose Gabilondo & David Walter | FIU Law Professors 

As faculty members of the law school, we are disappointed that one of the two elected student speakers at the May 17th Commencement was unceremoniously silenced when he expressed a political opinion about Gaza. As per our tradition, the graduating class picks two speakers to represent the part-time program and the full-time program.  When the part-time speaker mentioned Gaza (to both cheers and boos from the audience), his microphone was cut off.  Whether that act violated the speaker’s Constitutional rights or those of the audience or of the students who had elected him, we cannot say; but the overt censorship of a designated student leader was distressing and ironic, given that legal training seeks to build advocacy skills and civic responsibility. 

This year, the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, adopted Standard 208: Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.  It requires a law school to “[p]rotect the rights of faculty, students, and staff to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations, or protests.” Standard 208(b)(1).  Within the University community, the law school is uniquely suited to experiment with how best to meet this requirement.

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