Protests that shut down a scheduled speech to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), public relations officer at Northwestern University this week were just the latest in a “disturbing trend” of activists over the back of First Amendment rights, a leader of the school’s College Republicans, told Fox News Friday.
“The protesters were creating an unsafe environment for the students, for the teacher, for the guest,” Sammy Cuautle, the public relations secretary of the Northwestern College Republicans, said on “Fox & Friends.” He added, “This is a very disturbing trend around the country where universities are becoming less secure for the freedom of expression and less safe for the expression and the different ideas that are really very, very disappointing.”
“The purpose was to someone who was familiar with how [ICE] is structured,” Beth Redbird, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, told TIME. But those plans were nixed when the protestors started singing and waving banners as they claimed that the officer’s presence on the campus illustrated a threat for illegal immigrants.
The professor cancelled the class during the protest in the middle of the safety.
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“In essence, what happened was that a lot of several students on campus got together and they were angry that the ICE agent came,” David Donnelly, the president of the Northwestern College Republicans, told Fox & Friends. “They felt that it threatened undocumented immigrants to Northwest or on the campus of Northwestern. In reality, what it really was, it was just a PR person for ICE cream. And what it had to be a two-day, a sort of seminar that was going on in the sociology class that would give the students two really good perspectives of what is going on in the immigration reform debate.”
The debate followed comments from Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, in which he argued for the provision of “safe places” for students on campus.
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“You want to protect the First Amendment, of course, but it is not absolute,” Schapiro told The Wall Street Journal on 16 May. “People reduce it to slogans, or free speech at all costs. I have a president of 17 years and an educator—this is the 38th consecutive year that I’ve learned. I can see it. I eat in the dorms. I’m with the students all the time. I see what they struggle with. These are difficult issues, and just say, “My campus is not safe places’…Maybe some people take comfort in, but I don’t. My task as leader is to draw that line.”
“I love Morty, but at the same time I think that he is really wrong about this,” Cuautle said in a comment. “Earlier in the year, to the first class, he defended safe places. I think, in a lot of ways, the administration is a little complacent. They are not very aggressive to us or to the freedom of expression in general, but I think they can do a bit more to defend and at least the show of extremism, you know, this group of students.”