Photo of Naomi Mathew, courtesy of Rivera Eye Photography for FIRE
The New Tolerance Campaign is launching a campaign in support of the free speech rights of Naomi Mathew, a student at Truman State University who had her application to start a student group associated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) denied by the school because of the “’emotional risk’ of ‘hostile’ confrontations and the ‘reputational risk’ of associating with PETA.” In denying the application, Truman State appears to be denying Mathew’s First Amendment rights. This decision must be reversed.
On Tuesday, December 10th, Mathew and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) pushed back. In a detailed letter to Truman State President Dr. Susan Thomas, FIRE outlines the problematic history of Truman State’s administration in denying almost half of prospective clubs, including “ones advocating for first-generation college students, transgender students, children with cancer, and more.”
In the press release announcing the effort, FIRE’s Lindsie Rank said that “Truman State can’t reject student groups just because it doesn’t like what they might say, or what others may say in response. The law is clear: Naomi Mathew and her fellow students are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms without a university committee making subjective decisions behind closed doors about what students can and can’t handle.”
The FIRE letter to Truman President Dr. Thomas concludes by requesting that she confirm by December 20th that Truman State will recognize Mathew’s group, Animal Alliance, and “suspend use of subjective criteria for evaluating recognition of student organizations.”
NTC couldn’t agree more. Universities and colleges are instrumental in the intellectual maturation of future generations, and efforts they make to stifle legitimate and legal speech sends the absolute wrong message to their students. Join NTC in supporting Mathew’s right to free speech. Tell Truman State President Dr. Thomas to approve Animal Alliance and revise the criteria for recognizing student organizations to eliminate risks of violating students’ First Amendment rights.