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First and foremost


To the editor:

The First Amendment doesn’t care where you stand philosophically when expressing yourself, i.e., conservative or liberal. What it does care about is where you stand physically, i.e., public spaces or private property.

The Bill of Rights are individual rights and liberties that protect people from the government not from private  organizations or citizens. And unlike private organizations, the government generally defers to individual liberties absent a compelling state interest.

The right to free speech, expression and assembly is different in public universities and public spaces compared with private universities and private spaces.

Freedom of speech and expression are protected in the public square but can be curtailed in the private square. For example, there is no constitutional right to free speech in someone else’s home and a person can set limits for speech in their home. Telling guests there will be no discussions related to politics or religion does not violate the guest’s First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects individuals from the government not from private citizens.

A similar distinction applies to public and private universities. Generally, there is no constitutional right to free speech in a private university because it is not a governmental entity. However, if private universities accept public funds or create public spaces for students to express themselves then the First Amendment does apply.

Further, notwithstanding whether a protest is in the public or private space, the law must be upheld. There is no constitutional right to interfere with the rights of other students or professors nor any right to violate the law while expressing yourself. Destruction of property or barricading inside the university is not protected expression under the First Amendment. 

Marc Bullaro


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