Republican state lawmaker Austin Smith, who previously defended the right to freedom of speech at Arizona’s public universities, is now urging Arizona State University (ASU) to cancel a pro-communism event. Smith is calling for ASU’s President and the Arizona Board of Regents to condemn and shut down a pro-communism gathering planned for January 21, stating that “communist organizing is not free speech.” However, an ASU spokesperson responded by saying that the university, as a matter of free speech, neither endorses nor restricts opinions or views expressed at student group meetings, rallies or other events.
Arizona Republican Lawmaker Calls for Pro-Communism Event to be Cancelled at ASU
Republican state lawmaker, Austin Smith, who once defended freedom of speech at Arizona’s public universities, is pressuring Arizona State University (ASU) to cancel a pro-communism event. Having served on a legislative committee that accused ASU of suppressing conservative speech, Smith invited students of all political backgrounds to seek his support earlier this month.
Addressing students, Smith stated, “If you feel your voice is being trampled or threatened, reach out to us we will back you up.” However, he is now urging ASU’s President Michael Crow and the Arizona Board of Regents to condemn and cancel a pro-communism assembly slated for January 21, arguing that “Communist organizing is not free speech.”
In an expanded statement, Smith clarified that the meeting should be prohibited on the university campus “by any means necessary”. He referred to a 1961 state law that forbids universities from persuading others to accept communism. However, this law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 1973.
The contentious event, dubbed “100 Years of Lenin,” is hosted by the Socialist Revolution club at ASU, a group committed to discussing Marxist classics. The club has previously disrupted a Turning Point USA meeting on ASU’s campus. Smith is a member of Turning Point Action, TPUSA’s political advocacy arm.
Nick Brancaccio, a member of the Socialist Revolution in Phoenix, shrugged off Smith’s statement, saying his group is not violent and only seeks to educate themselves with ideas. He confirmed that ASU has not attempted to prevent the event.
ASU, with approximately 1,000 student groups, confirmed through a spokesperson that they neither endorse nor restrict opinions expressed at student group events due to free speech rights. The university has faced criticism from several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Anthony Kern. He proposed cutting ASU’s funding for allegedly curtailing free speech, and even filed a bill to this effect.
Other Republican lawmakers criticized Arizona’s public universities in a separate hearing for failing to prevent anti-Semitic speech over the past four months.