Kudos to my brother, Bob Lipson, for this great post.
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:
To see the right example, look at Purdue, Chicago, or others. I have some positive examples and a wonderful video here. And remember…
The University of Chicago doesn’t hide its defense of free speech and open discourse in the footnotes. It puts free speech front and center, in a video directed at all students thinking of applying to the University. It states our university values forthrightly, explains why they matter, and shows that we have held them since the university was founded, sometimes against rich and powerful opposition.
What’s amazing–and disheartening–is that these same values are not adopted by every college and university. What’s their principled objection to diversity of thought and free speech?
A few may have such principled objections, based on their notions of “social justice.” They know what is socially just; they know what is not; and they know the whole topic is just too important to debate. So, they reason, agree with us or at least have the courtesy to keep quiet.
DePaul is like that. It took away the students’ chalk last year after someone had the temerity to write “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. This Catholic school banned a poster, “Unborn Lives Matter,” for fear it would upset black students. There’s more robust debate on the back of a cereal box.
But most university administrators have no principled objections to free speech. They just go with the flow, unwilling to face the opposition from students and faculty that would greet them if they urged a hearing for unpopular viewpoints.
The poster boy for this invertebrate position is Peter Salovey, president of Yale. It’s bad enough he fails to defend free speech. He goes further, patting himself on the back for supporting the First Amendment. “Lux et Veritas” may be the university motto, but only if the lux is environmentally-friendly and the veritas is approved by local truth squad. Otherwise, not so much.
Salovey’s stance is similar to most college administrators. They simply do what successful career bureaucrats always do: protect their positions and that of their institutions from any controversy. That may keep the campus quiet, but is that really the highest goal of education?
I’m reluctant to post too much about my own university, despite my great admiration for its intellectual traditions and commitment to free speech.
It seems too much like preening.
(CAVEAT: Even at Chicago, there are some departments and centers that fall well short of the aspiration of diverse viewpoints. They are the same ones that rot and stink in the sun on all campuses.
There are also student groups that are happy to stomp out speech with which they disagree. The misnamed “Students for Justice in Palestine” leads this vile pack, as they do on many campuses. They show no signs of accepting John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning on Toleration,” or the Enlightenment ideals that build upon it and serve as this country’s foundation.
Even with these gaps and missteps, Chicago’s values in principle and in practice are far better than at places like Swarthmore, Yale, or Berkeley, where free speech and discordant views go to die. They are buried in unmarked graves, unmourned by students who fritter away hard-won constitutional freedoms so they can signal their higher virtue.)
This University of Chicago video is exactly what all schools should be saying to their prospective students. The punchline comes in the first 3 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes are worth watching.
Kudos to the university’s faculty and administrators who put free speech and diversity of ideas front and center. Kudos to the Dean of the College and the admissions department for underscoring these principled commitments.
Kudos, too, for adopting the informal motto:
Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)
Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.
South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.
China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.
My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.
◆ Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.
An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.
◆ Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:
Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)
These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”
Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).
But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong.
◆ Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees
Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.
Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.
◆ How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?
There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller
Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.
Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story
Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple
At least 11 dead, 30+ injured.
No one has claimed responsibility yet, but everyone suspects Islamic terrorists associated with the fighting in Syria.
A crackdown by Putin is certain.
◆ Democrats have enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch. (New York Times)
Comment: Mitch McConnell won’t let it prevent Gorsuch’s confirmation. For D’s in purple and red states, this opposition is perilous. Their base loves it, their donors love it, but the general public does not.
Rita Cheng had the courage to tell students they had to confront ideas they don’t like.
Comment: Well, they didn’t like that idea.
◆ White House says mainstream media not showing interest in Obama-era spying (Washington Post)
Comment: Absolutely right. In a separate post (here), I show screenshots from CNN, NYT, and WaPo that completely ignored the revelations about Susan Rice on Monday. That’s worse than spin.
Comment: CNN is the name of a former news organization
◆ Odd, new job titles: “Sales Enablement Associate” Yes, someone just emailed me with that title.
Comment: Like all right-thinking people at universities, I object to Enableism.
I recommend Ira Wells’ wonderful discussion, “The Age of Offence: The Politics of Outrage and the Crisis of Free Speech on Campus”, in the Literary Review of Canada.
As Wells observes, the assault on free speech at Canadian universities is similar to that in the US:
An increasingly sensitive and fine-grained vocabulary for registering and opposing forms of sexism, racism, ableism and religious intolerance has undeniably been developing within higher education. Recent events in Canadian universities suggest not only that freedom of speech does not include the freedom to offend, but that those who position themselves as “offence takers” currently hold the balance of power at all levels of campus politics. –Ira Wells
One example: A professor who directs a major institute at McGill University in Montreal had the temerity to suggest that Quebec suffers from the lower levels of trust among residents than other provinces. The Québécois, who apparently do not trust the polling data, cried foul. The professor was stripped of his directorship before you could say “merde.”
The problem is that “being offended” is a proposition that cannot be rebutted. It is, after all, your subjective emotion (or, rather, it is one you say you feel, perhaps sincerely, perhaps not).
If you couple that subjective feeling with the proposition that “the offended must always be shielded from talk that bothers them,” then you have arrived at speech suppression.
You have accomplished that feat in two easy steps. “I’m offended” + “I must be protected against offense” = “You must shut up.”
Sometimes, there is an intermediate step:
“I’m offended” + “I am from a special group” + “People in special groups must be protected against offense” = “You must shut up.”
In these cases, which are common on college campuses, only approved victims groups are allowed to be offended.
So, Palestinian students can be offended by anyone who thinks Israel should exist. But there is no symmetry. Israelis cannot be offended by apologists for terrorism (or, rather, they can be offended but no administrators care). Believe it or not, that is actually how many campuses operate.
Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
⇒Linked articles in bold purple
The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year –Washington Post
Democrats highlighted President Trump’s campaign promises to provide “insurance for everybody,” saying the bill falls woefully short.
“The CBO’s estimate makes clear that TrumpCare will cause serious harm to millions of American families,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said in a statement. –The Hill
How does the CBO get these numbers?
The CBO estimated that 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026 under the bill, largely due to the proposed changes to Medicaid. Seven million fewer people would be insured through their employers over that same time frame because some people would choose not to get coverage and some employers would decline to offer it. –The Hill
Comment: The numbers create obvious political problems for Republicans, and the Democrats will exploit them.
Here is how I figure Republicans will respond, at least publicly:
◆ A quote to celebrate spring training: Bob Uecker’s thoughts on catching Phil Niekro’s knuckleball:
The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up. –Bob Uecker
◆ The “progressive left” makes a regressive argument for stamping out speech…and they get to decide which speech.
Here’s Slate’s cover story: “The Kids Are Right: There’s nothing outrageous about stamping out bigoted speech”
Comment: The article is an artful scam, making its argument by allusion and demonization, without confronting serious counter-arguments.
It says some speech is bad and “informal rules” ought to limit it, without explaining who gets to set those rules and what criteria should be used. Then, it notes that our Constitution does permit some restrictions on speech. That’s right, but it is a good reason to say, “Let the First Amendment set the restrictions, not Slate magazine writers.”
The article goes on to attack Trump, Bannon (whom it explicitly calls racist), William Buckley (too religious), and others loathed by Slate readers.
It concludes, “The purveyors of logic, of facts dutifully checked and delivered to the public, lost big league in November.”
Why is that an argument for shouting down Charles Murray? It’s not.
◆ Two airlines cancel routes to Cuba. Too little demand. Other airlines are cutting back flights and using smaller planes (Miami Herald)
Comment: Fortunately, one airline is still flying to Cuba, and doing it on their terms.
Comment: He’ll win easily in the Senate and go onto the Court. The only question is how quickly Sen. leader McConnell will move.
♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Ed Vidal for the airlines cancelling flights to Cuba and the story at Slate favoring speech suppression.
Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
⇒Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Comment: The Trump presidency will be in deep trouble if it cannot pass a repeal-and-replace bill.
Right now, the White House and Congressional leadership face real problems from the right in House (which doesn’t want to keep Obamacare’s big subsidies to the poor, locking in an entitlement) and centrist Republicans in the Senate (who fear they cannot be reelected in moderate states if they repeal these subsidies). Think: small fairway with a water hazard on the right and thick bushes on the left.
The House Freedom Caucus expresses principled opposition to entitlement expansion. Basically, they want repeal without replace. The members are all in safe districts that Trump won, so the members may be reluctant to oppose a president popular among their voters. It’s hard to know if these members can be pressured by Speaker Ryan and the White House to sell out their principles.
The moderate Senators are harder to pressure because they fear a wrong vote could cost them their seats. In the past, they could be coaxed by side-payments. That’s what Pres. Obama did with the “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase.” Those backfired and they won’t work this time.
This is sausage-making at its bloodiest. It’s not even clear the pig is dead yet.
Comment: Although Turkey is a NATO member and the lobbying work was not illegal, it is stunning that he did not register as a “foreign agent” contemporaneously (he is only doing so now) and that the Trump vetting team didn’t catch this advance. He can’t say he forgot. The check was for $500k. It is a very good thing he’s already gone.
◆ Top Democrats’ tech aide, now under criminal investigation, had access to their private emails, including DNC emails The details are here. (Daily Caller)
Imran Awan — the lead suspect in a criminal probe into breaches of House of Representatives information security systems — possessed the password to an iPad used by then-Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz when DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks. . . .
The FBI requested access to the DNC’s server to find out who was responsible, but the DNC refused, FBI Director James Comey said, according to The Hill.
Politico reported that New York Rep. Gregory “Meeks and, to a larger extent, Wasserman Schultz, are said to have a friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”
House authorities set their sights on the Awans while investigating the existence of a secret server that was funneling congressional data off-site.
They also suspect Imran of stealing money and equipment. –Daily Caller
◆ Good News on Free Speech: Univ. of Chicago proposes ‘free speech deans’ to prevent disruptive conduct (Campus Reform)
The University of Chicago could soon implement new policies that would severely limit “those engaged in disruptive conduct” from preventing “others from speaking or being heard.”
A recently-released faculty committee report also suggests establishing “free speech deans-on-call” trained to “deal with disruptive conduct” in order to ensure students are not prevented from expressing themselves on campus. –Anthony Gockowski at Campus Reform
⇒Linked articles are in bold purple
◆ There is good news for open discourse at Middlebury College after the despicable violence that prevented Charles Murray from speaking and injured Prof. Allison Stanger.
◆ Prominent faculty there have circulated a petition for free speech and garnered lots of signatures.
Parini and Callanan, the distinguished scholars who have headed up this effort, deserve high praise for it.
At the bottom of this blog post, I quote the exemplary principles they lay out.
◆ Let’s go beyond praising the free-speech petition and use the signatures to show where support free speech comes from and where the opposition lies.
◆ So far, 63 faculty members have signed on. More might join in the next few days.
◆ They come from a broad variety of departments–but not all.
In fact, it is worthwhile to examine the departmental affiliations of who signed up for free speech and, on the other side, those who signed the counter-petition (prior to the speech), demanding Murray stay away and then sliming him with false allegations about his views and scholarly findings.
Most (but not all) of Allison Stanger’s colleagues in political science signed the pro-free speech petition, as did she. That’s not surprising. She was, of course, injured in the riots, and some of her friends and colleagues undoubtedly wanted to show solidarity with her.
Parini’s colleagues in English and American Literature signed in larger numbers than most departments. Support from literature departments would not happen at most universities. That it did at Middlebury may reflect the kind of department Parini helped build or simply his colleagues’ friendship.
Who signed the petition beyond faculty in Political Science and Literature? The bulk were in the “hard social sciences” (Economics, Psychology), History, Russian, Math, Chemistry, Geology, and, surprisingly, Religion.
(By “hard social sciences,” I mean those, like economics and psychology, that aspire to be sciences, emphasize large data bases, mathematical models, and empirical testing of causal models. Fields like anthropology and history certainly use data, but they are generally more interested in the actors’ mentalities, intentions, and meanings. Thus, “hard” does not mean difficult, and “soft” does not mean squishy.)
Who refused to sign? There were zero signatures from the following departments and minors:
African American Studies, African Studies, American Studies, Arabic, Comparative Literature, Dance, Education Studies, French, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Global Health , Greek, Hebrew-Classical, Hebrew-Modern, International and Global Studies, International Politics and Economics, Latin, Linguistics , Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physical Education, Physics, South Asian Studies , Spanish and Portuguese, Studio Art, and Theatre
That is based on the stated affiliations of the signatories, compared to Middlebury’s official list of its departments and majors. It is possible, of course, that some signatories have “affiliate appointments” in these departments or that the departments have no exclusive faculty of their own.
That distribution reflects my own experience across multiple universities (but is not based on systematic data).
On nearly every campus, the staunchest opponents are professors of gender, sexuality, women’s studies, race, Native American studies, education, and social work, all highly-politicized bastions of the left. American Studies is now essentially the same and so are most literature departments. (Middlebury is an outlier.)
They always lead the opposition to free speech. Because social justice.
If students don’t agree with the dominant political ideology of these departments, they leave or never enter in the first place. (It is snarky but true to add that students don’t enter them if they are thinking about building skills for future employers. My point is that they are not building skills for open-minded, critical thinking, either.)
These departments never hire professors who vary from the party line. Never.
Here, for example, are the three full-time faculty in Middlebury’s gender studies program. All three signed the “Keep Murray Away” petition. NONE signed the free speech petition. That is anecdotal, of course, but it is repeated on campus after campus. You would be hard fixed to find professors of Gender Studies, Sexuality, Race Studies, Education, or Social Work who take a strong position in favor of free speech. And they are pretty thin on the ground in theater or comparative literature. All think it would permit “oppressive” speech that hurts the weak, poor, and vulnerable.
At Brandeis, for instance, the same department–to a person–opposed having Hirsi Ali come to campus even though she had already been invited and even though Ms. Ali is the single most important voice for women’s rights in the Muslim world. They and like-minded faculty got the spineless administration to cave in and rescind the invitation. (FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has a summary of the episode here.)
Put differently: February is “Black History Month” only because it is the shortest month.
Their viewpoint is summarized in Bernie Sanders’ angry rejection of the idea that America is a compassionate country. His fury is brief and telling.
Turning to the brighter side:
⇒ The Middlebury Principles are excellent.
It is hard to see why all faculty and students don’t endorse them enthusiastically.
That they do not is the tragedy of our time on campus.
Comment: It is hard to improve on that as a principled defense of free speech on campus.
◆ My own op-ed on these issues, focusing on the 3 steps needed to restore free speech at universities, is here at Real Clear Politics
Update and Correction: “Social Sciences” removed from list of Middlebury Departments without a signatory. It is a division, not a department, and many social scientists did sign.
♥ Thanks for suggesting this article:
◆ Tom Elia for sending me The American Interest piece
◆ Greg Piper of The College Fix for the correction.