Media Contact

Dorrie Toney, [email protected], 404-302-0128

April 30, 2024

Dear Georgia College and University Presidents,

As an organization committed to upholding the right of free expression in a state with a storied history of political speech and protest, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia urges you to hold fast to the principles of free speech and free association. In the wake of recent protests on campuses across Georgia, and with the news of brutal arrests in response, it is essential that the free exchange of ideas is supported and protected on campus.

The First Amendment applies to public universities and colleges, requiring that they respect free speech and protest rights. Although private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment, the importance of academic freedom and free inquiry compels them to follow similar principles. It is imperative to distinguish that targeted harassment rooted in antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism or any bigotry has no place on college campuses or anywhere else.

The ACLU of Georgia offers these considerations to protect free expression on your campus:

  • Refrain from involving outside law enforcement, unless as a necessary last resort. Inviting armed police to a campus protest environment creates unnecessary legal and safety risks for students and faculty, particularly Black and Brown students. 
  • Extend First Amendment or open expression protections to speech that reflects all sides of current conflicts or issues, regardless of viewpoint. 
  • Weigh the lasting impact of protesters being charged with crimes that carry enhanced penalties. These enhancements were designed and are being used to punish dissent. 

An open letter from ACLU’s National Executive Director, Anthony D. Romero, and Legal Director David Cole, emphasizes that our nation’s institutions of higher learning should prioritize free expression alongside protection for all people. While the 2023-2024 academic year will end soon, the issues sparking debate in our country and on your campus will persist. As you continue responding to campus protests, we ask that you uphold your institution as a model of intellectual rigor, activism, and open dialogue.


Andrea Young
Executive Director, ACLU of Georgia