Georgia State is a safe place for free speech — so long as you hold positions popular with campus administration. This was the message sent by Georgia State prior to, during and after the recent visit of Created Equal, the pro-life organization of which I am vice president.
As documented by The Signal, days before we arrived for pro-life outreach to students, the university issued a campus-wide email suggesting our opinions would be “offensive,” “hurtful,” “mean-spirited” and “hateful.”
This presented a wildly inaccurate picture of our team — poisoning the well by bracing students for a false stereotype. Indeed, as video evidence shows, we are often on the receiving end of hate-fueled verbal and physical attacks.
The frustration of our speech escalated during the event to outright protest when Senior Director of Psychological and Health Services Dr. Jill Lee-Barber held and handed out “No Hate at State” signs next to our display.
Lee-Barber insisted this was not related to our display, but her colleague proved this false. Holding one of the “No Hate at State” signs, Dr. Mikyta Daugherty, associate director of Clinical Services, stationed herself squarely in front of our display, obscuring the image of an aborted fetus and refusing to move. She denied her role as an administrative official.
All of this was captured on video.
Afterward, we called on Georgia State to apologize for the interference with our free speech. In response, a Georgia State spokesperson said that the aforementioned email referring to “hateful” speech was a standard email sent every fall as a general notice about possible upcoming events.
But this is specious. The email was issued more than two months into the semester — just prior to our event, and begins with “In the next week…” Clearly, this was sent in relation to our event.
Further, Georgia State claimed that the content of the campus-wide email is standard language posted on the Dean of Students website. But this is demonstrably false. An investigation of the site reveals no such reference to “hateful” or “mean-spirited” speech.
Georgia State is weaving a web of falsehoods to obscure their frustration of our speech. And no comment has been made by administrators regarding Daugherty or Lee-Barber’s actions.
Tragically, our experience is not unique. Afterward, a member of Georgia State’s faculty and staff, insisting on anonymity for reasons which are evident, wrote us the following: “I work at GSU and I am truly scared for my job if I speak up on campus. Free speech for faculty and staff does not exist at public universities if you are pro-life or don’t agree with the liberal and leftist narrative. I cannot afford to lose my job and so choose to stay silent.”
This suppression of speech from individuals with pro-life views is an affront to higher education.
Georgia State needs more than policies which feign obeisance to the First Amendment. The administration needs not only to apologize to Created Equal but to take decisive action to assure that frustration of speech from individuals with unpopular opinions will not be permitted on the campus.
Vice President, Created Equal