Justices to Decide If Public Colleges Face Consequences After Infringing Students’ Free Speech

GianCarlo Canaparo:

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Jan. 12 in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, a case that will decide whether public universities that infringe their students’ First Amendment right to free speech can be held accountable for it.

The case was brought by Chike Uzuegbunam, who was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College from 2013 to 2017. While there, he converted to Christianity, a decision that he said “brought me so much joy and purpose that I wanted to share my faith with as many people as possible.”

He tried to do that by having one-on-one conversations with students in a large plaza on campus where many other student groups and activists do the same.

Campus police told him he had to stop and move instead to a “free speech zone.” He did, but police quickly stopped him again, saying that his speech constituted “disorderly conduct,” which the college defined as any speech that causes students subjective discomfort.

The police threatened to prosecute Uzuegbunam if he continued, so he stopped.