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Leadership Conference Calls for Balance in Civil Rights, Free Speech Protections

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is calling on college and university administrations to be thoughtful and democracy minded as antiwar protests continue on their campuses.

Maya WileyMaya Wiley“We call on college and university administrators to protect the First Amendment right of student protesters to peacefully protest and to exercise their right to petition their institutions for change,” said Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, a coalition of more than 240 national organizations charged to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the U.S.

Wiley noted that, since Oct. 7, 2023, the organization has seen and heard disturbing accounts of Arab American, Jewish, and Muslim communities experiencing incidents of hate and bias, including violent death threats and threats of sexual assault. She said rejecting hate, bigotry, and discrimination in tandem with the embrace of civil rights laws and protections that include free speech and assembly requires a balance with which many campuses have been challenged.

“We call on administrators to engage in good faith negotiations, de-escalation strategies, and clear policies and strategies that prevent overreaction and inappropriate calls for police presence on campuses,” she said.  "We call on Congress and the White House to increase resources and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and significantly increase resources for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.”

Wiley said administrators have an obligation to protect the rights of all community members including protect nonviolent protesters, even as they protect the right of students, faculty, and staff to be free from hate and violence.

“Democracy requires our protection always and more so in hard times,” said Wiley. “We are united for our democracy and the protections it affords all of us to express our beliefs and to live free of hate and violence. We believe our colleges and universities must do the same.”

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