Berkeley: A Feckless Administration Caves, in advance, to the Heckler’s Veto

Why not free speech at colleges?

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has the story here.

Since [the riots protesting a planned but cancelled speech by Milo Yiannopoulo], the Berkeley College Republicans’ property has been destroyed, the group cancelled a speech by conservative activist and Berkeley alumnus David Horowitz after the administration threw up numerous roadblocks, and now it has been told that conservative commentator Ann Coulter may not speak as planned due to the danger posed by potentially violent protesters.

This is a chilling and dangerous precedent. –FIRE

FIRE has it exactly right, as usual. They are a politically-neutral organization that supports free speech and does more than any organization to promote it.

Hecklers should never receive a veto. NEVER.

At Berkeley, the hecklers and rioters not only have a veto, they have established an effective deterrent threat. They can merely threaten to go berserk and prevent speech they oppose.

The rights (and limitations) surrounding the First Amendment should apply fully on campuses, even at, gasp, the University of California, Berkeley.


The three keys:

  1. Universities need to state strong free speech principles. Those are essential, and it is essential to state them without weasel words. But even the best principles are not enough. Berkeley falsely stated its commitment to free speech in cancelling speeches.
  2. Universities need to enforce those on the ground through its deans and safety officers
  3. Students and outsiders who violate those rules need to face sure and serious punishments.


To see the right example, look at Purdue, Chicago, or others. I have some positive examples and a wonderful video here. And remember…

1 Comment
  • Dave Schuler
    April 20, 2017

    There’s actually a pretty easy way to induce universities to implement robust free speech policies. Pell grants, other forms of federal student loans, NSF grants, and so on should only be available to students attending institutions that have robust free speech policies in place. By “easy” I mean administratively easy. Politically it would probably be nearly impossible, sad to say.

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