My name is JP Kirby and I am the Director of Student Rights at Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). I work with students who deal with infringements of their rights by overbearing campus administrators and their policies. In my time as Director of Student Rights, I’ve helped hundreds of students fight for their rights to free speech, self-defense, medical freedom, privacy, and more.
Over the last month, I was informed by a YAL activist that there had been an incident on campus at Dallas Baptist University (DBU). Rebekah “Bex” David is an alumnus of DBU, graduating summa cum laude Class of 2022. Before her time at DBU, she served in the United States Navy until she finished her service honorably in 2019. Since her time in the military, Rebekah has become a relentless and effective activist for the cause of freedom here in Texas. Rebekah was brought on as the Texas State Chair for YAL this year–a position that allows her to train and mobilize students to make more Americans free.
On August 29th, Rebekah and other YAL activists set up a table on campus to recruit interested Dallas Baptist University students to join the YAL club they were assisting. After over an hour of conversations with DBU students, Rebekah was interrupted by an officer of the DBU Police. This officer informed her that tabling without permission on campus could be considered criminal trespassing by DBU administration and that she must immediately cease tabling.
After complying with this order, Rebekah returned two days later and peacefully placed flyers with QR codes around campus. Shortly into her activity, she was approached again by DBU security and issued a Trespassing Warning stating that, “any further entry into Dallas Baptist University will subject [her] to immediate arrest…”
The campus did not stop at threatening Rebekah for being on campus, but later threatened the YAL chapter on campus to prevent Rebekah from supporting students. In September, as the YAL chapter was applying for recognition from the school, Director of Student Life Wayne Briggs informed the YAL students that “Rebekah ‘Bex’ David is not permitted to have any membership, involvement, or leadership in the DBU chapter of YAL… Failure to comply with this guideline could result in the disbanding of the chapter.”
This overbearing response from the DBU–directed at an alumnus and military veteran choosing to pursue activism–is not becoming of an academic institution. At no point during the process did the University administrators in charge of the campus policy interact with Rebekah directly. Instead, the University immediately sent armed security to deal with the issue.
Unfortunately, the University’s response to this situation seems consistent with the way DBU’s policies approach the speech and assembly of their adult students. Although the Dallas Baptist University Student Handbook states that “Dallas Baptist University believes in individual freedom, both as a right and as a responsibility,” the policies laid out in the handbook are far more restrictive toward freedom of speech and assembly than almost any school in Texas.
The Handbook’s section on Campus Community Rights and Responsibilities, under the section regarding “Assemblies,” states that “assemblies on University property must be approved at least 72 hours in advance by the Vice President for Student Affairs.” According to this policy, this permission must be granted for “[a]ny public assembly held on campus…” (emphasis added). On top of this restriction on public assembly on campus, DBU’s policies also define an unauthorized assembly as “any student organization assembly held off campus without prior approval…” (emphasis added). This permission requirement not only creates a prior restraint that suppresses student activity, but would also be immediately struck down as unconstitutional, even at the most liberal public school in the country. Policies such as this are overbroad, creating a culture of disparate enforcement that allows the schools to punish whom they choose.
Young Americans for Liberty wholeheartedly supports the right to free association. We acknowledge and support the right of academic institutions to create environments on campus that fit the needs and beliefs of the students who choose to enroll in those institutions. That being said, neither Dallas Baptist University’s response to Rebekah’s activism, the threat to disband the new YAL chapter, nor the school’s established speech and assembly policies reflect the image of an institution committed to the pursuit of truth and the training of students to engage in the outside world.
With these thoughts in mind, YAL believes that Dallas Baptist University should honor the values it claims to uphold and correct the University’s recent missteps. DBU should remove the Trespassing Warning issued to Rebekah David and return to her all normal rights an alumnus would otherwise have in visiting her old campus. DBU should cease threatening the Young Americans for Liberty chapter with punishment for contacting or being involved with Rebekah David–the appropriate YAL representative in charge of aiding and supporting the chapter’s growth and involvement. Finally, DBU should revise its campus-wide speech and assembly policies to reflect a University that truly believes in the free pursuit of truth and the ability of its students to participate in valuable opportunities.
Young Americans for Liberty has experience in changing nearly 100 free speech policies across the country. Through our own resources and the resources of our partner organizations, YAL is more than willing to offer policy suggestions that would help create an atmosphere of free speech and discovery on campus–all while continuing DBU’s mission to provide an atmosphere of Christian life and service.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to your response.