Fresno State’s investigation of College Republicans for tweet critical of military raises First Amendment concerns

Graham Piro
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Speech criticizing the military has a long and controversial history in American discourse. The Fresno State College Republicans are beginning to discover the firestorm that is unleashed when one takes aim at members of the United States military. In this case, that firestorm is protected counterspeech. In contrast to the criticism on social media and beyond, however, the administration of Fresno State has gone too far in announcing a “review” of the group’s protected speech. FIRE wrote to the university this afternoon reminding Fresno State that it may not punish students for protected speech — even speech many find offensive.

It started when Patrick Loller, a military veteran who has become an online comedian, posted a video on TikTok (which was later posted on Twitter) in February lambasting people who decline to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic as cowards. The Fresno State College Republicans responded by mocking Loller’s post-traumatic stress disorder and some other members of the military.