December 30, 2019
From Congressman Tom Reed:
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Tom Reed released a letter sent to SUNY System Chancellor Kristina Johnson and President of SUNY Binghamton Harvey Stenger following a visit by renowned economist Art Laffer to Binghamton University where he was shouted off the stage and escorted out of the room by security before having the opportunity to speak.
This happened, according to press reports, because the protesters did not approve of the campus Young Americans Foundation and the College Republicans groups in which Laffer was addressing.
“The importance of the free exchange of ideas is one of the bedrocks of our democracy. So integral, the right to freedom of speech was enshrined in the first amendment of the United States Constitution. A free and democratic country depends on a well-informed, educated, and opinioned public free from concerns that their speech or beliefs will be constrained or prohibited. A country where speech, especially political in nature, is infringed cannot thrive,” Tom said in the letter.
Tom requested the following answers regarding SUNY free speech policies:
1. Are there any SUNY-wide restrictions or limitations on the free-expression of political speech, including gatherings, meetings, tabling, and distribution of materials?
2. Are these requirements enforced fairly and without regard to content or group?
3. Are there any SUNY-wide restrictions on the formations of political clubs?
4. Are there any SUNY-wide restrictions on clubs inviting guest speakers?
5. What efforts are made to ensure clubs are able to function without retaliation or harm?
6. What balance does SUNY strive to make when protecting the right of a club to invite and hear from a guest speaker with the right of students to protest such speaker?
7. What disciplinary actions are enforced by the University when students take actions to stifle free speech?
Tom also asked the SUNY System Chancellor Kristina Johnson and President of SUNY Binghamton Harvey Stenger to answer the following questions regarding the incident on November 14 and 18, with Art Laffer at the SUNY Binghamton campus.
1. Why was SUNY Binghamton unable to protect the College Republicans from distributing materials on November 14 from aggressive and violent protestors?
2. What actions have been made to discipline the aggressive and violent protestors on November 14?
3. What actions were taken to ensure the College Republicans could hear from their speaker, Art Laffer, without disruption?
4. Why were those actions not enough and what changes has the school made to ensure similar speakers aren’t shouted down and forced to leave?
5. What actions has the university taken to hold protestors who shut down the event for their actions?
6. Why has the university selectively punished the College Republicans and removed their ability to reserve rooms and hold future events and speakers?