10 Questions for Ruth Malhotra · 11 May 2006

Filed under: Georgia, Press Coverage

By BuzzBrockway.com--05/10/06

In the fall of 2003, I was invited to speak to the Georgia Tech College Republicans. At that time I was Chairman of the Gwinnett County Republican Party and as an alum of Georgia Tech, I gladly accepted. In the classroom on the Tech campus where thirteen years earlier I had listened to Mack Moore expound on labor theory, I told the Tech CRs about life as a Party Chairman. As I always did as Chairman, I stayed away from giving my personal political opinions. Yet the first question asked of me was "what's your position on affirmative action?" There were no reporters present so I answered the question, which came from the soon to be Chairman of the Georgia Tech College Republicans Ruth Malhotra.

Ruth Malhotra has made news several times while a student at the Institute. She's taken a Professor to task for threatening to flunk her, she's testified before the Georgia State Senate about academic freedom, and in March of this year, she and another student filed a lawsuit against Georgia Tech to, as she sees it, protect her right of free speech.

I submitted ten questions to Ruth about her decision to file a lawsuit and the state of political discourse at Georgia Tech. As you'll see from her answers, she's firm in her convictions and won't run from controversy. I think Ruth Malhotra represents a new breed of campus conservatives, a growing group of students who aren't afraid to challenge what they see as the left-wing orthodoxy prevalent on so many college campuses.

BB: Why did you file a lawsuit against Georgia Tech?

RM: I, along with another student Orit Sklar, filed a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against Georgia Tech for its blatantly unconstitutional policies. Our love of liberty and our love for Georgia Tech have compelled us to take this stand so that every student's rights to free speech and religious liberty will be respected.

The suit was filed 1) to hold GT accountable for the fact that mainstream conservative speech is often considered "hate speech" and "intolerant," while politically-charged, far-out-of-the-mainstream Leftist speech is considered part of the "intellectual diversity" purportedly valued by the Institute; 2) to challenge GT's discrimination against religious and political groups by refusing to fund them with the Student Activity Fee; and 3) to confront why GT evaluates and endorses certain religious views through the school-sponsored "Safe Space" program. In other words, I want free speech for all students, equal rights for all organizations, and I want the Institute to respect the Constitution by getting out of the business of promoting certain religions over others.

BB: What do you hope to accomplish with this lawsuit?

RM: It's simple: I want all Georgia Tech students to enjoy equal rights to free speech and all Georgia Tech students to enjoy the full measure of First Amendment protections. As of now, Tech policies restrict the free speech rights of all students, with the policies enforced primarily against religious and conservative students.

Many have suggested that we should have dealt with these problems internally and that filing suit was an "unnecessary step." The truth is that we have been trying to change the climate at Georgia Tech for years. In spite of countless meetings with various deans and administrators, we've had our speech censored, we've had our protests shut down by campus police, and we've repeatedly had Institute officials warn us away from speaking out on important public issues.

BB: Some critics of this lawsuit claim you want the right to verbally assault and denigrate those you disagree with in the name of religion. How do you respond to that charge?

RM: The purpose of the lawsuit has been seriously misrepresented in the media and on the campus. True harassment is prohibited by state law and by Tech policies. I abhor harassment and support vigorous enforcement of constitutional anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules. Moreover, I have never engaged in verbal assault against anyone. Tech has prohibited me and my organizations from engaging in peaceful, non-obscene protests and then justifies that censorship by saying it is merely trying to stop verbal assault. That is disingenuous.

Also, people should not be deceived by the rhetoric. The campus left tends to use terms such as "verbal assault" to describe speech not in line with their orthodoxy. Yet, campus leftists have engaged in explicit racial name-calling against me. For example, some have posted flyers calling me a "twinkie bitch," this to suggest that I am "yellow on the outside and white on the inside;" they have directed many other derogatory insults towards me and my groups; some members of the campus left have even physically threatened me. I ask you, who is engaging in verbal assault? Who is really being intolerant?

BB: The LA Times article about your lawsuit claimed you just want to be intolerant toward gays. How do you respond to that charge?

RM: Sadly, the media has twisted this case into a battle over homosexuality. In reality, my lawsuit is not directed against any students or student group (I believe all students and student groups - including of course gay student groups - should enjoy the full range of First Amendment freedoms), but rather against unconstitutional Institute policies.

The L.A. Times article is almost laughably inaccurate. We have no desire to be "intolerant" toward anyone. We simply have different ideas about public policy, sexual morality, religion, and culture. We should have the same right to express those views as anyone else on campus. In fact, if you look at the Complaint, you'll see that the Institute has censored speech that has nothing to do with homosexuality.

While I do espouse a traditional Christian worldview and disagree with homosexual behavior based on my religious beliefs and moral convictions, this is not a personal issue directed towards a specific community of people. I believe that every American has the right to express their views, and this case is about all students enjoying equal rights to speak freely on matters of public importance.

BB: The lawsuit mentions several incidents where the Tech Administration condemned your actions. Can you briefly describe one of those incidents?

RM: For Women's Awareness Month at Georgia Tech, I organized a display with College Republicans themed "Feminist Fantasies," based on Phyllis Schlafly's ground-breaking book. Our display contained a myriad of materials on prominent female figures - from the Right and the Left, and contrasted radical leftists of the modern-day feminist movement such as Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton with leading female figures of the Conservative Movement such as Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. It asked viewers to decide: "Who Represents You?" We included a collection of quotes, photos and statistics referencing issues such as abortion, sex education, and the Vagina Monologues, as part of our campus-wide campaign to challenge Georgia Tech's Women's Resource Center. A portion of our display was protesting the Vagina Monologues play which the Institute was helping to sponsor and promote. As you know, the play is extremely controversial and radically leftist, so part of our protest involved quoting some of the more absurd lines from the play. Administration officials demanded that College Republicans take down the display because according to them it was insulting and offensive, and when we refused to do so they eventually made us cover up certain parts of the display. The Dean of Student Involvement then sternly reprimanded me for the protest and ordered me to refrain from engaging in "shock value" in future activities. This is just one example of a situation where Georgia Tech administrators condemned our actions and warned us against advancing our message in the way we chose.

BB: When I was a student at Tech (the late '80s), the student body was mostly conservative. Has that changed or are Tech students still a fairly conservative group?

RM: I do think the student body at Georgia Tech is relatively conservative in general, at least in the engineering fields. However, in the College of Liberal Arts where I am a student, it's a different story as students lean heavily to the left. The administration is definitely leftist and actively promotes an unbalanced agenda, while at the same time stifling students who express views not in line with their own. Our lawsuit challenges the Georgia Tech administration, not fellow students.

BB: Do you think the political environment at Georgia Tech is more or less restricted than most of America's Colleges and Universities?

RM: I don't know, as I have only had the opportunity of a first-hand college experience at Georgia Tech. I do know that speech codes are prevalent at colleges and universities across the country, and I do think conservative and religious students face discrimination on many of our nation's campuses.

BB: A few months ago, Rush Limbaugh referred to "Rush Babies." Rush Babies are people who grew up listening to Rush and his brand on conservatism has help shape their thinking. In addition to talk radio, there are now conservative blogs and other online communities facilitating rapid and broad communication among like-minded people. All these things allow campus conservatives to arm themselves with information outside the classroom. Has this inspired college conservatives to oppose leftist activities on campuses?

RM: I think it is both inspiring conservatives to fight back as well as prompting a leftist backlash. Conservative students are successfully confronting political bias on campuses across the country, and utilizing the new media and communication opportunities to effectively advance our message. Talk radio enables students to hear alternative viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day, and online forums enable students to exchange ideas and share advice on how to fight campus leftism.

The radical campus left does not feel as secure as it once did, and it is lashing out in full force. We see this at Georgia Tech, where the campus left is not just using racial slurs against me but also physically threatening me. They are growing increasingly concerned that their stranglehold on campus is lessening, and they are resorting to extreme measures.

BB: You're a proponent of the Academic Bill of Rights proposed by Students for Academic Freedom, and you testified before the Georgia State Senate in favor of it. How would it help Georgia Tech and other Universities?

RM: Because of my experiences on campus, I was called to testify at the Georgia Senate hearing on the Academic Bill of Rights, giving me a chance to use my personal situation to raise awareness of the bias prevalent against conservatives. I recounted the political prejudice I had witnessed, where conservative students were a target for open vindictiveness and penalized for their personal positions.

The Academic Bill of Rights movement has brought enormous attention to campus abuses such as those that I have suffered. I think the ABOR would bring much greater accountability to administrations and professors. They operate with impunity now; ignoring both the Constitution and their own professional standards.

Situations of political and religious discrimination are not isolated incidents, but remain prevalent and must be addressed, and I think the ABOR is an effective avenue by which to hold institutions accountable.

BB: Is there anything we haven't covered that you want people to know about your lawsuit?

RM: Simply put, Georgia Tech's policies and practices violate our First Amendment rights. Whereas Orit Sklar and I have no desire to shut down opinions we disagree with, the school and politically powerful campus groups have unbridled discretion by policy and by the nebulous standard of "being offended," to suppress any speech they simply "find intolerant." None of us has a right not to be offended. It is the duty of the Institute to protect expression, not to ensure that favored groups can speak while others cannot.

I really want Georgia Tech to answer one question: Why is that conservative and religious students and student groups are often treated differently and given fewer rights? I believe in legal equality for all students in the marketplace of ideas, and may the best ideas win. The left at Georgia Tech apparently believes that its ideas are not strong enough to withstand scrutiny, and this explains not only the censorship, but also the racial name-calling and threats. Although such reactions are disturbing, I don't need a speech code to protect myself. I simply want the opportunity to speak and express my ideas without fear of reprisal.

As I mentioned earlier, I am doing this because I love freedom and I love Georgia Tech. I am loyal to the school and I simply want the Institute to uphold the Constitution and respect every student's rights to free speech and religious liberty.