After prof arrested for interfering with students’ message
A professor from the University of Albany has been arrested for disturbing a lawful assembly, resisting arrest and obstruction for shutting down the messaging of pro-life students who had set up a protest against abortion.
But as constitutional expert Jonathan Turley explains, the bigger dilemma posed by the arrest of Renee Overdyke is the demand that the university itself affirm freedom of speech … or admit that its free speech rules “are a mere pretense of principle.”
Turley explains Overdyke unplugged an electric display deliberately to “prevent students from expressing their opposition to abortion.”
“Then she resisted arrest. The question, which we have previously discussed, is where the university should draw the line in the conduct of faculty in preventing free speech.”
A video of Overdyke’s obstruction (please be aware of offensive language throughout):
Professor arrested for shutting down pro-life event.
On April 19, U. of Albany sociology professor, Renee Overdyke, was arrested for shutting down our large LED screen and then resisting arrest. Her swift apprehension by police permitted Created Equal to resume the broadcast of… pic.twitter.com/SCePpybjjk
— Mark Harrington (@mharringtonlive) April 21, 2023
Turley explained the pro-life display had attracted a “loud” counter-demonstration, “fine and good” since “universities are supposed to be a place for debate and both sides were exercising their free speech rights.”
Then Overdyke interfered to stop the messaging by Created Equal.
“Overdyke took this action despite the university distributing a pamphlet to students at the event repeating the rules for free speech behavior, including a prohibition on actions to prevent or obstruct someone else’s free speech. This message was all the more important because a conservative speaker had been shouted down two weeks earlier,” he explained.
One student screamed “she’s a [expletive] professor.” And Turley said, “That is precisely the point.
“As the university was telling students that they could not obstruct the event, Overdyke is accused of doing precisely that. She sought to prevent others from being able to speak on campus.”
Turley noted Overdyke actually is just the latest in a list of “professors” who have shouted down students with other views.
“Blocking others from speaking is not the exercise of free speech. It is the very antithesis of free speech. Nevertheless, faculty have supported such claims. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about ‘the importance of free speech,’ Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech. (Bilek later cancelled herself and resigned). Even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. At University of California- Santa Barbara, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display,” he noted.
He said the claim that “preventing others from speaking is free speech” actually is “an absurd and dangerous claim.”
“It will convert our institutions into little more than shout fests where the loudest prevails. Given the dwindling number of conservative or libertarian faculty, it is a way to effectively bar opposing views from being heard on campuses. It is as easy as unplugging a display at the University of Albany,” he said.
The question for Albany, however, is what to do with Overdyke.
“She not only sought to silence students but directly violated the policies of the university. Free speech and free inquiry are the very touchstones of higher education. She has taken a stand against the right of others to be heard and the university has an obligation to take action to sanction this conduct.
“Professor Overdyke has now presented the University of Albany with a clear choice. It can confirm that faculty members are accountable to free speech rules or it can confirm that these rules are a mere pretense of principle.”