As President Donald Trump doubled down against the NFL National Anthem protests, his attorney general wades into a different culture war with a planned address to law students about “free speech on college campuses.”
In a speech delivered at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, Sessions will lamented that American universities were “once the center of academic freedom, a place of robust debate,” but are now “an echo chamber.”
“Freedom of thought and speech on American campuses are under attack,” Sessions said.
“The university is about the search for truth, not the imposition of truth by a government censor.”
The debate that Sessions entered has in recent months become a violent one.
In February, on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, black-clad agitators smashed windows and hurled Molotov cocktailsahead of a planned appearance by far-right controversialist Milo Yiannopoulos. At Middlebury College in Vermont in March, protests outside the speech of a conservative political scientist devolved into a shoving match that left one professor hospitalized.
Flashpoints around hot-button speakers, alongside a trend of trigger warnings and safe spaces, have fueled reputations that places of higher education are hostile to the First Amendment. More US adults surveyed by Gallup last year thought that Americans’ ability to exercise their free speech rights is weaker today than 20 years ago (40%), than those who thought it was stronger (31%).
Sessions has a strong interest in First Amendment protection and has discussed publicly remarking on university turbulence for months, according to the source familiar with the speech.
Students and faculty members of Georgetown’s law school say they plan on protesting the attorney general’s speech.
“I find it hypocritical for a member of the Trump administration to act as a champion for free speech while the President has consistently mocked and insulted those trying to exercise the very same rights,” said Richard Hand, a third-year law student at the university.
“I think we understand those things without him having to tell us that, ” added third-year student Spencer McManus. “I don’t deny that he has the right to say what he wants and what he thinks — I certainly believe that very strongly. It’s the irony of him coming here.”
The law students, who helped organize a rally expected to draw hundreds, point towards Trump’s recent fight with NFL players who have protested civil rights abuses…