Opinion: Free Speech Under Assault on College Campuses (Pt. 2)

Opinion: Free Speech Under Assault on College Campuses (Pt. 2)

Opinion: Free Speech Under Assault on College Campuses (Pt. 2)

The University of Michigan is known for many things — its football team, having one of the largest football stadiums at a university (or even pro) level and, as noted earlier, a tendency to try to stifle the free speech and free expression of ideas by its students. The university should add one more item to that list: the inability to learn from past mistakes, its own as well as those of other colleges.

If a student violates Michigan’s rules about what can and can’t be said, they can be subjected to discipline that includes “restorative justice,” “individual education” and “unconscious bias training.” How does a student find himself facing such possibilities? By taking part in “‘Verbal conduct’ that ‘victimizes’” or jeopardizes a ‘social climate’ that is ‘safe and inclusive’.” Wow, can they be any less clear? Violate this oh-so-murky policy and you, too, can expect a visit from the university’s bias response team.

And is it any wonder Speech First has filed a law suit in an attempt to toss out this new policy a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments? (Remember, UofM is a state university and receives both state and federal funding.)

What we must remember is this tendency by colleges to limit not only what students can say but where they can say it isn’t restricted to the UofM. Nor is this a trend instituted only by college administrations. 2017 was rife with examples of free speech being stifled, or completely prevented, by “students”. Students at The College of William and Mary shut down a talk by an ACLU representative. The ironic part of this? Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU’s Virginia chapter, had come to discuss free speech issues. Who can forget the infamous Mizzou assistant professor, Melissa Click, back in November 2015 calling for more “muscle” to prevent a student from covering a student protest?

But not all attempts to limit free speech on college campuses have been as “in your face” as the above examples. Universities have set up “free speech zones” which limit where and when students can exercise their their rights to free speech and the free exchange of ideas. It doesn’t matter that these zones have been struck down in court. But the courts aren’t the only ones to take action. Recently, Georgia became the 10th state to strike down free speech zones on college campuses. When a state legislature moves itself to take action, you know things have gotten out of hand.

None of which seems to have stopped UofM. Nor does its own history with having its limits on free speech struck down in the courts. In 1989, its policy was stricken down. In that decision, the court wrote, “While the Court is sympathetic to the University’s obligation to ensure equal educational opportunities for all of its students, such efforts must not be at the expense of free speech.” If you look at what is happening in Ann Arbor right now, it seems obvious that is exactly what is once again happening.

Unfortunately, UofM is only the tip of the iceberg. What is happening there isn’t just a matter of university policy, it is a matter of culture. When you have the university president standing up on election night and “declaring that the 90 percent of them who had favored the losing candidate had rejected ‘hate’,” you have an administration that is telling its students there is only one “right” way to think. It is a warning to conservative, and even libertarian, students that their opinions aren’t desired and certainly won’t be respected. Most of all, it is an indication that there will be no free exchange of ideas because there is only one “right” opinion.

What happened to those institutions of higher learning that prided themselves on being nations of free speech? How do we, as parents and alumni, stand up to this disturbing trend? The answer is simple and yet, for some of us, painful. We quit supporting the institutions that no longer educate but that see their roles as centers of indoctrination. We close our checkbooks. We stop going to athletic events. We don’t send our children there. We speak out and we let these colleges and universities know exactly how we feel about their misbehavior.

There is something else we can do. If a university accepts state or federal funding, it is required to follow certain state and federal guidelines. If it fails to do so, it risks losing that funding. So, when you hear of such a school suppressing free speech, let your representatives know. Ask them to do exactly what Georgia and the other nine states have done.

It is time for this infringement on our rights to stop. If we don’t stop it here, on college campuses, the problem will only grow. Freedom of Speech is a fundamental cornerstone of our nation. Let’s not stand docilely by as it is further eroded by those who would prefer us to sheeple rather than rational, thinking people.

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  • GWB says:

    there is only one “right” way to think
    One response from all these institutions:

  • Tom G says:

    Yes, stop the funding of “Dem Indoctrination Camps”, which are now called colleges.

    Require that schools bear 50% of the risk that school loans will not be repaid; allow limited bankruptcy protection for students with unpaid student loans. Student loans are now the second biggest aggregate debt, and are far too high.

    Require protection of Free Speech to be a big criteria in accreditation decisions.

    Create more on-line programs with objective testing so that normal folk can learn the material without going to overly expensive colleges, yet prove that they know it.

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