Conservative student group lauds CLC for hosting free speech sessions
Members of a politically conservative student group at the College of Lake County are celebrating the administration's decision to host training sessions for faculty members and club advisers about the First Amendment and free speech.
The presentations, held earlier this month, followed disruptions at public events run this fall by the local chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom at the main campus in Grayslake. Also this fall, someone posted flyers on campus that targeted the organization and implied it was a hate group, and a large display created by the group was vandalized.
Group chairman Rob Corn called the free-speech training sessions "a huge accomplishment."
"Now we know that our ideas will not be silenced on campus and that our efforts to promote open dialogue about critical issues are succeeding," Corn, of Wauconda, said in a news release. "Conservative students at CLC deserve support, and the school administration is starting to recognize that."
According to CLC's website, the Young Americans for Freedom group "works to advance the conservative movement on campus." The group supports "individual freedom, free enterprise, limited government, and traditional values," the website states.
Corn said the group has more than 20 active members. It holds regular meetings and has organized public projects including a display of small U.S. flags commemorating the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In recent months, the group has held public forums about illegal immigration and abortion, and a panel featuring black people who are conservatives. Some audience members disrupted the discussions verbally or by making noise, videos shared on social media show.
Subsequently, on Dec. 4 and Dec. 6, representatives from the law firm representing the college, Robbins Schwartz, led discussions about free speech with CLC staffers.
According to a prepared statement from the college, the lawyers gave an overview of the First Amendment and talked about the limits on regulating speech, the role of club advisers when it comes to free speech and related topics.
"The college has a responsibility to recognize and uphold freedom of speech and expression (as) protected by the First Amendment," the statement reads. "While the college need not agree with any opinion expressed, as a public institution of higher education, the college acknowledges that freedom of thought and expression is an important aspect of the college experience and society overall."
Anne O'Connell, CLC's public relations and marketing director, declined to say if the sessions were directly prompted by the incidents involving the Young Americans for Freedom.
According to the school's statement, the gatherings were held after officials learned students on both sides of controversial political issues discussed on campus "may have been subject to derogatory remarks from members of the college community."
"The college recognizes that these circumstances have left some students, regardless of their particular view, feeling unsafe or unsupported," the statement reads. "The college is sympathetic to how students feel."
O'Connell wouldn't say if attendance at the training sessions was mandatory. About 50 people attended the sessions, she said.
Additional training sessions may occur in 2020, the school said.
In an email Thursday, Corn said it's good people are using their free speech rights to challenge the beliefs his group espouses.
"Having a true democracy means we should all use our First Amendment right to have meaningful and effective dialogue with each other, even if that dialogue is controversial," he said. "We think it's great that the school administration is starting to recognize how important that aspect of society really is, especially in a college setting."