University of Rhode Island President Forbids Student Senate from Imposing Unconstitutional Sanctions
April 12, 2007
University of Rhode Island (URI) President Robert Carothers has intervened to stop the Student Senate from imposing unconstitutional sanctions on the URI College Republicans, who sponsored a satirical $100 “scholarship” for white, heterosexual, American males. The Senate prohibited the group from disbursing the money, but the Senate later demanded that the College Republicans apologize publicly in the student newspaper for even advertising the scholarship. FIRE wrote to the Student Senate to explain that the First Amendment prohibits any organization that derives its authority from a public university from compelling students to make statements against their will. When the Student Senate ignored its constitutional obligations, FIRE urged President Carothers to intervene. In a recent memo, President Carothers boldly told the Senate that its demand for an apology “does not meet constitutional standards as laid forth in the First Amendment,” and directed that “you may not impose any sanctions on the College Republicans, or any other student group, that requires them to make public statements which are not their own.” We now wait while the Senate decides whether to heed the president’s directive.