Flagler College ‘Retroactively Approved’ Student’s Free Speech Event After First Denying It

Better late than never?

Kelli Huck, a student at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, wanted to hold a "free speech ball" to make a point. If you're thinking of high heels and sparkly gowns, you're slightly off. Here's a photo of a Young Americans for Liberty group on Merced College's campus doing the same thing:

They used the gigantic ball to draw attention to their table and their cause: free speech. Well, it must be nice to be a student at Merced College, because Young Americans for Liberty was allowed to exercise their free speech on campus without being harassed by officials. Administration officials at Flagler College actually prohibited Huck from having a similar event. Why? At first, they told her that all events have to be sponsored by authorized student groups.

However, Huck had twice tried to establish a Young Americans for Liberty chapter on Flagler's campus, but was denied by the Student Government Association. The group, they said, leaned “towards one certain political agenda.” Huck decided to hold her "free speech ball" anyway as an individual student, and this -- according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education -- is how she was treated:

On Thursday, the day before the free speech ball event took place, Director of Student Activities Timothy Mellon and Vice President of Student Services Daniel Stewart informed Huck that it would be “unfair” if she did not go through the same registration process as student groups. Mellon and Stewart originally warned Huck that she could use only the public road that went through campus, not Flagler’s grounds, essentially saying her voice stops where Flagler’s campus starts.

After Huck pressed through and held her event, the college "retroactively approved" it. Gee, thanks? More from FIRE:

“We are glad that Flagler College ultimately vindicated Kelli’s expressive right to hold a free speech ball event, but the university should never have placed her in the position of having to risk disciplinary action in order to engage in free expression,” said Ari Cohn, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “The idea that only members of student groups — and not individuals — have a voice on Flagler’s campus is deeply troubling and runs counter to the ideals that Flagler claims to value.”

It took a certain amount of pluck for this young student to defy the college, but she says that it was worth it.  “Seeing all the different opinions, arguments, positive thoughts, and responses was breathtaking,” she said. “Flagler students loved expressing themselves. This is what college is about.”  

It's sad when students understand "what college is about" more than college administration officials do.

Photo credit: Young Americans for Liberty

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