Law firm demands UGA rescind 'unconstitutional' resolutions

The SGA passed the resolutions over “graphic” and “distressing” pro-life displays on campus.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation sent a letter to the University of Georgia over a pair of resolutions passed by student government which seek to put limits on expression.

A nonprofit law firm is calling on the University of Georgia Student Government Association to rescind two resolutions that it says violate the First Amendment. 

Southeastern Legal Foundation, a self-described “national constitutional public interest law firm and policy center,” recently sent a demand letter to UGA challenging Resolutions 32-06 and 32-07, both of which it says limit free expression on campus. 

“This letter seeks to inform SGA about the dangerous, unconstitutional precedent these Resolutions set because they serve to suppress, rather than encourage, public debate,” the letter reads. “As such, we respectfully demand that SGA rescind these Resolutions.”

Resolution 32-06 addressed “graphic” and “distressing” pro-life displays on campus. The resolution notes that the displays “could have emotionally or physically triggered members of the UGA community,” which could “have serious detrimental effects” on members of the community to “pursue education, conduct research, and otherwise work and attend” UGA. 

Resolution 32-07 calls for student organizations to be required to submit information to the Office of the Dean of Students Department of Student Affairs before tabling or advertising on campus. The resolution also calls for these organizations to describe the “intent” of their activism efforts on campus. 

The Southeastern Legal Foundation argues that these resolutions violate the First Amendment. 

“The Resolutions undermine [the principle of the “marketplace of ideas”] and raise serious First Amendment concerns because they are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad,” the letter reads. The authors wrote that the resolutions also “pave the way for content and viewpoint-based discrimination” and “have a serious chilling effect on student speech.” 

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“A law or policy is unconstitutionally vague when it establishes a requirement or punishment without specifying what is required or what conduct is punishable,” the authors added. “Students cannot be and are not expected to comply with a vague school policy because they have no way of knowing exactly what is required or prohibited.”

The Southeastern Legal Foundation letter also warned of similar trends on other campuses

“As we have seen on other campuses, resolutions like these force students to self-censor because they fear backlash from peers and administrators,” the letter reads. “UGA students are left wondering what other potentially ‘offensive’ topics are off-limits and could amount to serious sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion. As SLF reiterates through our 1A Project, the remedy for offensive or hurtful speech is always more speech, not enforced silence. SLF reminds SGA that this rings especially true on college campuses, where ideas must be shared rather than stifled. We hope SGA will respect the rights of all UGA students.”

The legal group also issued a warning should policies at UGA not change. 

“While we hope it does not come to the need for litigation, the resolutions raise serious First Amendment violations and cannot go forward.” 

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The Southeastern Legal Foundation says it sent the demand letter on behalf of “concerned students” who have not been named at this time. 

UGA spokesperson Gregory Trevor told Campus Reform that these resolutions do not bind the university to any action.

“SGA resolutions are not binding on the university,” Trevor wrote in an email. “No rights are more highly regarded at the University of Georgia than the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably.”

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