LOS ANGELES – In response to student demonstrations on Southern California college campuses, Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel and director of first amendment and democracy at the ACLU of Southern California, issued the following statement: 

“The bedrock of university life is the open and free exchange of ideas, where debate is encouraged. More than half a century ago, the efforts to silence speech on campuses during the McCarthy era eroded the foundation on which academic communities—and our democracy—are built.   

All students deserve equal access to education, free from discrimination based on religion, race, and ethnicity. Schools have a responsibility to keep all students safe from violence, discrimination, and censorship.  

In California, we are fortunate that the Leonard Law extends protections akin to those provided by the First Amendment to students at private colleges and universities. Colleges and universities must resist pressure from Congress and others to clamp down on student protest – even when issues are contentious – and remain firm in their commitment to free speech, open debate, and peaceful dissent on campus. 

We urge campus administrators not to resort to law enforcement or private campus security to interfere with student demonstrations and encampments. 

We encourage students to review their schools’ policies about demonstrations and protests and to know their rights.”