Starnes: DePaul stifles free speech of pro-life advocate
The head of a conservative student organization at DePaul University has been sanctioned by the university and could be expelled after he released the names of vandals who destroyed a pro-life flag display.
Kristopher Del Campo, the chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter, was found guilty by the university on two counts – “Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others” and “Judicial Process Compliance.”
DePaul University did not return calls seeking comment.
Last January, Del Campo and other pro-life students received permission from the university to erect a pro-life display featuring 500 flags. Vandals later destroyed the display – stuffing a number of the flags into trash cans.
The university’s public safety department launched an investigation and eventually identified 13 students who confessed to the crime. Those names were then released by the university to Del Campo.
On Feb. 5 the national Young Americans for Freedom organization posted the names of the vandals on their website. The posting generated negative comments directed at the vandals – and the university held Del Campo responsible.
Three days later, Del Campo was informed that he had violated DePaul’s Code of Student Responsibility. He was formally charged ten days later.
“Instead of supporting a student whose free speech rights were violated, DePaul University bullied Kristopher Del Campo for daring to expose the 13 vandals,” said Young America’s Foundation President Ron Robinson. “They put him through a Soviet-style show trial.”
Free speech and conservative groups said they are shocked that the university is punishing the victim of a crime.
“Simply publishing the names of the students who confessed to vandalizing YAF’s display does not place them at ‘substantial risk of physical harm,” wrote Pete Bonilla, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in a letter to the university’s president.
“The 13 DePaul students named in the public safety report admitted not only to vandalizing YAF’s display but also planning to do so,” he wrote. “Students who purposefully vandalize the works of other students should not expect to be shielded from the public consequences of their actions.”
According to an email obtained by Fox News, the dean of students warned Del Campo that he could ultimately be removed from the university.
“It is unfortunate that this incident is part of your educational career,” wrote Dean of Students Art Munin. “Any further infractions of the Code of Student Responsibility during your probationary period may result in additional disciplinary action including removal from the university.”
Del Campo, a 23-year-old psychology major, is about to graduate. He agreed to speak to me knowing that he could face expulsion.
“I lost my dignity as a person,” he said. “They told me I couldn’t say anything and I had to keep all of this confidential.”
Del Campo said he is speaking out because he doesn’t want other conservatives to suffer through the ordeal he’s been subjected to.
“The dean told me not to fight,” he said. “He told me it wasn’t worth it – that I just have 13 weeks left at the university. But I’m going to fight this. This is wrong. This university has a problem with free speech rights and this time they met a challenger who is not backing down.”
Kate Edwards, of YAF, said they are demanding that DePaul University drop all charges against Del Campo.
“His free speech rights were completely violated,” she told me. “They intimidated him. They threatened him. They placed a gag order on him.”
Edwards said the university even forbade Del Campo from contacting YAF and was not allowed to have any counsel during his tribunal.
“He couldn’t get a lawyer – he was completely intimidated,” Edwards said.