Med Student Sues EVMS on Free Speech Grounds

by James A. Bacon

Edward Si, a student at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, has filed a lawsuit to stop the institution from blocking his effort to establish a local chapter of the Students for a National Health Program. The Student Government Association denied the club’s application for recognition on the grounds that it “does not want to create clubs based on opinions, political or otherwise” — despite recognizing other opinion-based groups such as Medical Students for Choice and the Christian Medical and Dental Association.

“I decided to sue in order to uncover the truth and to stand up for my basic constitutional and human rights,” said Si, who is backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “Without freedom of expression, there can be no student activism and political advocacy.”

Si filed on behalf of himself and 20 other prospective SNaHP members in December. The student government turned him down the following month. According to a FIRE press release, SI spent months trying to persuade administrators to reverse the unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. University officials declined to intervene.

Recognized clubs at EVMS receive a variety of benefits, including funding eligibility, use of the school’s name and branding, and use of campus facilities.

“When a public med school says that a student can’t start a club promoting universal healthcare, it’s clear that First Amendment rights are dead on arrival,” said FIRE Attorney Greg Greubel. “EVMS has granted its student government the authority to recognize student clubs, but stands idly by when that authority is abused. FIRE will not rest until EVMS ensures all of its students equal treatment in accordance with their rights.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Personally, I don’t favor a national health program, but I do support Si’s right to advocate for change. And he seems to have a point about the double standards in play: Take a look at the most recent Facebook entry of the Medical Students for Choice-EVMS Chapter, which promotes a rally in Richmond:

Join MSFC – EVMS chapter, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, and our allies as we fill the room to represent the 72% of Virginians who support safe, legal abortion access. For the first time this year, the Virginia Board of Health will convene to discuss anti-abortion TRAP restrictions in the Commonwealth. Under the guide of “protecting women’s health,” we know the true motivation of these medically unnecessary, burdensome restrictions: to close our trusted healthcare clinics and shutter access to abortion in Virginia.

Clearly, the med students for choice are expressing opinions on a very controversial topic. EVMS needs to be consistent. Either it refuses to fund any group that, as an organization, advocates a political point of view or it eliminates the no-opinions dictum as a funding criteria.

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16 responses to “Med Student Sues EVMS on Free Speech Grounds”

  1. Steve Gillispie Avatar
    Steve Gillispie

    The Liberals have a nice racket going. Censor or prohibit anything which might provide a different point of view to their dogma.

    They’ve been quite successful with Google, Twitter, YouTube, CNN,MSNBC,NBC et al and virtually the entire academic administration and professoriate in lockset to control all discussion.

    It will be interesting to see how the Courts respond. Their record is not good on supporting constitutional rights.

    Please post the outcome of this suit.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I’m confused. Isn’t Si adhering to liberal dogma by agitating for single payer?

      It seems more likely to me that the student council (composed of future physicians) has no interest in nationalized healthcare.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I had the same reaction. Both “choice” (abortion) and nationalized health care are traditional liberal policies. The reasoning for turning this down is nonsensical. I wonder if there are some personality clashes at the bottom of this dispute.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          “The Student Government Association denied the club’s application …”

          It wasn’t the faculty or administration who turned it down. It was the students. Future doctors. They don’t care a bit about abortion. They do care about lower compensation for doctors.

          Doctors in England make an average of $89,572. The lowest paid doctors in the US are pediatricians who average $221,000 per year.

          Anyway, that’s my guess. Medical students are liberal until being liberal impacts their wallets.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            We’re not in England. Nor, would single payer be the same as government owned. Finally, ask doctors working for the VA, which is government owned, if their compensation sucks. Hint: it doesn’t.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            “Finally, ask doctors working for the VA, which is government owned, if their compensation sucks. Hint: it doesn’t.”

            The Military and the VA don’t attract the best practitioners. They are also tiered pay which Staff Physicians make between $108k -$243k.

            The National Average for Physicians is ~$203k.

  2. tmtfairfax Avatar

    On the merits, I hope he fails miserably. I like my health care and insurance coverage. Many people do. Leave us alone.

    But once again, the government is discriminating based on the content of the speech. That is wrong constitutionally and very scary.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      The most misinformed people on Obamacare I met in 2010-2012 period were doctors.

      1. tmtfairfax Avatar

        I don’t understand your comment.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          I’m in favor of his group on the merits too. Perhaps some information will transfer by accident too.

          1. tmtfairfax Avatar

            Point noted. When many financial advisors recommend to federal employees that they simply keep their health care plan after they retire and not add Medicare B, why should those employees and their significant others fight to keep the status quo? My wife worked for around 40 years for the federal government, earning her benefits. Why should they be taken away absent a financial collapse of the federal government?

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    I wonder if he’s been in touch with the ACLU?

    1. FIRE is probably the best organization for him to have contacted. They concentrate exclusively on civil liberties issues at educational institutions. The ACLU has a much more broad scope.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Good luck to Edward. It is inspiring to see young adults make a stand for our unalienable rights.

  5. Jerry Vandesic Avatar
    Jerry Vandesic

    “Either it refuses to fund any group that, as an organization, advocates a political point of view …”

    That’s pretty sketchy too. Only allowing non-political POV’s is not being content neutral.

  6. Update from FIRE today: EVMS approved Si’s club application the day after the lawsuit was filed. But FIRE is not finished. Says FIRE Litigation Follow Jeff Zeman: “Until EVMS changes the unconstitutional policies that allow the student government to deny clubs recognition because of their beliefs, this lawsuit will continue.”

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