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…

A WONDERFUL video on the value of free speech at universities

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: 

Audiatur et Altera Pars: Listen Even to the Other Side.


Violent Berkeley Protests “Stunningly Successful,” Says Organizer, who is a Berkeley LAW graduate

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We’ll do it again if he tries to speak on campus, he says

The story is here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We are happy with the results,” said UC Berkeley Law School alumnus Ronald Cruz of the group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. “We were able to meet Mr. Yiannopoulos’ fascist message with massive resistance.”

An estimated 150 “black bloc” anarchists attacked police with rocks and fireworks and used barricades to smash windows at the student union Feb. 1, forcing the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ appearance.

“We are not affiliated with them, but were united in shutting down the Milo event,” Cruz said.

“Everyone played a part,” he said. “Some engaged in breaking windows — others held signs and made sure that the fascists and the police did not attack anyone.

“This was self-defense,” Cruz said. “Windows can be replaced. People can’t be.” –San Francisco Chronicle

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, February 7

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 Conrad Black op-ed: “Struggle for America’s Heart Is Erupting on a Scale Unseen Since the Civil War (New York Sun)

This battle will continue to escalate. The Democrats have promised scorched earth . . . . ” [They] are trying to sandbag Mr. Trump’s Cabinet nominees, especially those who have promised to promote charter schools, crack down on the abuses of labor organizations, strip all the bunk about global warming out of environmental policy, promote oil and gas production, incentivize job-creating economic growth, reform health care, and reactivate the Justice Department. The Democrats will probably not be able to stop confirmation of his Cabinet nominees, but he will have to engage in some degree of cajolery from the driver’s seat of the Trump bulldozer to get his program through.

The level of antagonism of his opponents is obvious almost every day, and is not unrequited by the president and his supporters. . . . 

Against such witless and compulsive animus, the president and his supporters should prevail, but he might like to be more careful and have occasional recourse to subtlety. The reason the country appears so divided is that it is divided. About half the country thinks the entire power structure is flabby, corrupt, and useless; and the other half, including the serried ranks of its members, think it is adequate to commendable and that it has been assaulted by a maniacal demagogue. Most of the Trump program will work if he can enact it, and then he will have his honeymoon.

We are witnessing a struggle for the heart and mind of America, and for the apparatus of its government, on a scale that has not been seen since the Civil War. –Conrad Black

 “Berkeley, Identity Politics, and the Progressive Assault on Campus Free Speech,” an opinion piece by Richard Cravatts (Times of Israel)

Of the many intellectual perversions currently taking root on college campuses, perhaps none is more contradictory to what should be one of higher education’s core values than the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barraged with vitriol, all at the hands of progressive groups who give lip service to the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their own speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view. –Richard Cravatts

Cravatts is particularly critical of a “on the one hand, on the other hand” letter sent out by Cal-Berkeley’s chancellor.

 One of those amazing personal stories of Cold War spies (New York Times) The story is told in the obituary of a CIA officer, John Platt.

John C. Platt, a Central Intelligence Agency officer who forged a remarkable and secret friendship with a Soviet K.G.B. agent in the midst of the Cold War, only to see their friendship betrayed by a Russian mole inside the C.I.A., died on Jan. 4 at his home in Potomac Falls, Va. He was 80.

Mr. Platt, who was known as Jack, was a gruff former Marine officer who for years ran a training program in Washington to teach C.I.A. case officers how to operate under cover. But he was best known in the spy world for his longtime friendship with Gennadiy Vasilenko, a K.G.B. officer whose betrayal by Aldrich Ames, the Soviet mole at the C.I.A., led to Mr. Vasilenko’s imprisonment in Moscow. …

Even as they developed a friendship, Mr. Platt kept trying to recruit Mr. Vasilenko to become an American spy, but Mr. Vasilenko always rebuffed him.

“I never stopped trying to recruit him,” Mr. Platt said in 1997. “But he never crossed the line.”  –New York Times

 “What Steve Bannon Really Wants”  (Quartz) The article is a personal profile–and an interesting one.

Bannon’s political philosophy boils down to three things that a Western country, and America in particular, needs to be successful: Capitalism, nationalism, and “Judeo-Christian values.” These are all deeply related, and essential.

America, says Bannon, is suffering a “crisis of capitalism.” (He uses the word “crisis” a lot—more on that later.) Capitalism used to be all about moderation, an entrepreneurial American spirit, and respect for one’s fellow Christian man. …

Underlying all of this is the philosophy of Edmund Burke. [In Burke’s] view that the basis of a successful society should not be abstract notions like human rights, social justice, or equality. Rather, societies work best when traditions that have been shown to work are passed from generation to generation. The baby boomers . . . failed to live up to that Burkean responsibility by abandoning the tried-and-true values of their parents (nationalism, modesty, patriarchy, religion) in favor of new abstractions (pluralism, sexuality, egalitarianism, secularism).

For both Burke and Bannon, failure to pass the torch results in social chaos. . . .

Once in power, the liberal, secular, global-minded elite overhauled the institutions of democracy and capitalism to tighten its grip on power and the ability to enrich itself. . . .

In short, in Bannonism, the crisis of capitalism has led to socialism and the suffering of the middle class. And it has made it impossible for the current generation to bequeath a better future to its successors, to fulfill its Burkean duty. –Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad, Quartz profile of Steve Bannon

 FBI agent under investigation for leaking  (New York Sun)

[The alleged misconduct] could fuel already substantial public and congressional concern, stemming from the presidential election and the probes of Hillary Clinton’s emails and of Russian political interference, about lack of professionalism by the FBI related to disclosure of investigative information. –New York Sun


zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ John Kriegsmann
for the Steve Bannon story

Good News: Rising Momentum FOR Free Speech at Universities

The pushback in favor of free discourse is gaining steam

 This week had lots of news about free speech, including the bad news about rioting at Cal-Berkeley that prevented a speech. It wasn’t hard to see the irony: the home of the 1960s Free Speech Movement has become the Home of the Anti-Speech Movement. 

Despite Berkeley’s long arc of descent, the opposing movement–the movement in favor of free speech–is starting to win advocates and adoption elsewhere.

 Peter Berkowitz does a superb job of explaining the central issues and pointing the way forward in this op-ed:

How State Lawmakers Can Restore Freedom on Campus (link here) (Wall Street Journal)

Colleges and universities promulgate speech codes. Administrators, professors and students encourage “trigger warnings” and demand punishment for “microaggressions”—a pretentious word for inadvertent slights—and insist on “safe spaces” from which troubling opinions and ideas are banished. Campus authorities disinvite controversial speakers and look the other way when students shout down dissenters who somehow slipped through. The transparent goal is to prevent any deviation from the reigning orthodoxy. ….

The yawning gap between universities’ role as citadels of free inquiry and the ugly reality of campus censorship is often the fault of administrators who share the progressive belief that universities must restrict speech to protect the sensitivities of minorities and women. Even those who aren’t ideologically committed can be wary of bad publicity. They often capitulate to the loudest and angriest demonstrators to get controversies off the front page. –Peter Berkowitz, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal

 What Berkowitz recommends–and I do, too–is well-considered state laws to ensure free speech at public universities.

 Fortunately, model legislation has been developed, building on programs some universities already have in place. The principles of this model legislation, and the language itself, are in a new report by the Goldwater Institute. Here are the key points:

The model legislation presented and explained in this brief does several things:

  • It creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
  • It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
  • It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
  • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  • It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
  • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
  • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

Taken together, these provisions create a system of interlocking incentives designed to encourage students and administrators to respect and protect the free expression of others. –Goldwater Institute’s “Campus Free Speech: A Legislative Proposal”

The full report is here.


◆ Comment: These are wise protections for unpopular speech. I like the idea of state legislatures taking the lead so we can see if any practical problems emerge and need to be solved.

Once the kinks, if any, are worked out, then we ought to consider clear-cut national protections for campus speech. Why shouldn’t the First Amendment apply on the quadrangles, just as it does on the sidewalks surround them?

The clout behind this legislation would obviously be federal funding. After all, the threat of withholding federal funds is the clout behind almost every federal rule and law affecting universities.

Let’s hope several states try this model legislation, see how it works, and fix any glitches. Once that is done, let’s consider laws that cover all universities in the country.

National laws are the only way you’ll get free speech in California, Maryland, or Rhode Island universities,unless courts step in to protect free speech and due process for students, faculty and staff. The courts will be in a stronger position with explicit laws protecting speech at universities.

Politicians in deep-blue states are reluctant to pass these laws, partly because of political pressure from the left, partly because the legislators themselves believe that their vision of “social justice” should override free speech and that they alone should decide what counts as social justice.

If you doubt that Social Justice Vigilantes really do want to suppress divergent viewpoints, just listen to the call-ins at Michael Krasny’s Forum program at KQED-San Francisco Public Radio discussing the rioting at Berkeley. Most condemned the violence, but very few said they favored robust free speech. Krasny himself is even-handed and professional, but his callers openly state that “bad” speech should be blocked, even if it is permitted by First Amendment. (Remember, the First Amendment allows restrictions on dangerous and coercive speech, as well as reasonable rules about when and where speakers can voice their views. No bullhorns at 2 am!)

So what exactly is this “bad speech” that the Social Justice Vigilantes would prevent?

They alone know, and they alone decide. Right now, that is what they are doing on too many college campuses. They get plenty of help from a phalanx of administrators, some determined to push their political agenda, others simply missing a backbone.

If the universities themselves are unwilling to guarantee their students the protections afforded them in the Bill of Rights, then their elected representatives should. (Charles Lipson comment)


♥ Thanks to
◆ Peter Berkowitz for his fine WSJ piece

◆ Stanley Kurtz, James Manley, and Jonathan Butcher for the important proposal at the Goldwater Institute 


BRAVO: A Professor at Berkeley and a Cartoonist Who Defend Embattled Free Speech

Yesterday, I posted a joyous tweet from “Occupy Oakland,” celebrating the violence and chaos they helped cause in Berkeley. The spark was a scheduled talk by a right-wing speaker (himself a provocateur, who certainly manages to provoke).

The problem was not protesting the speech. That’s their right.

The problems came when they actually blocked the speech and began smashing windows and setting fires to underscore how much they hated this speaker–and perhaps other things, either capitalism or plate glass.

You do not have to like the scheduled speaker or agree with his views to recognize that his right to speak is clearly protected under the First Amendment.

You don’t have to be a constitutional lawyer to recognize why the rights to speak and assemble are guaranteed: they are crucial to a vibrant democracy.

Today, let’s turn to the bright side: the people who stand up for free speech when the task is hard, when anarchists and social justice vigilantes are are in the streets trying to stop it.

That’s when the First Amendment needs defending most.

That’s why kudos go out to Cal-Berkeley’s Professor Ron Hassner and the Chicago Tribune‘s Scott Stantis.

 This is Ron Hassner’s Facebook post. He’s a professor at Cal-Berkeley and a distinguished scholar of religion in international politics

 This is Scott Stantis’ characteristically incisive view on the Chicago Tribune‘s editorial page



zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin◆ Thanks to my friends, Ron Hassner and Scott Stantis

♥ They are fighting the good fight for free speech on campus, even for noxious speakers.

Doing it on Cal-Berkeley’s campus, as Prof. Hassner does, requires more than a hat tip. It requires the tip of a combat helmet.


ZipDialog’s News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, September 8

Always being updated–

Holy Cow! Over 5,000 Wells Fargo employees fired for creating over 2 million ghost accounts to up-charge customers. Looks like Mr. Potter was running the bank; George Bailey sacked for refusing to go along. To commit such a huge, ongoing fraud, a lot of people higher up the line simply have to know about it, and perhaps plan it as well as cover it up. So, expect a tsunami of lawsuits and a word or two from Elizabeth Warren. This ain’t over. It’s just beginning. (CNN Money; thanks to Dave Lundy for letting me know)

♦ One of those amazing stories: A woman, sexually abused for years as a child, becomes a cop and actually arrests her molester. The perp confessed six times during his first interrogation but didn’t take full responsibility. True story: he blamed his penis. (WGN TV, via KXXV)

♦ Turkey’s frayed relations with the US worsen as Erdogan demands Washington extradict a foe from his Pennsylvania exile. The Begin-Sadat Center in Israel provides a valuable analysis, with an executive summary and full report.

Ankara has sent evidence to Washington allegedly proving that Fethullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania, orchestrated the recent failed coup in Turkey. The US is understandably hesitant to agree to his demand for Gülen’s extradition, given Erdoğan’s post-coup purge to consolidate power and unapologetic silencing of his critics, as well as his tyrannical behavior in recent years.

Efrat Aviv, The Erdoğan-Gülen Rivalry

♦ A fresh and completely different view of Phyllis Schlafly by Chicago journalist, Carol Felsenthal, who did not share her politics but came to know her well as her biographer. Felsenthal’s memories focus less on Schlafly the right-wing political activist, best known for blocking the Equal Rights Amendment, and more on Schlafly the person. One striking aspect of Felsenthal’s article: when Schlafly’s staunchest political opponents got to know her, they often enjoyed spending time together, despite their differences. (Chicago Magazine)

UPDATE: Felsenthal adds more personal details here, at Time, noting that Schlafly’s parents raised their daughter never to have self-doubts. Felsenthal shrewdly dubs it “the secret of [Schlafly’s] success,” and it may well be since it make for a strong political actor or business executive. But there is a downside, too. It discourages the moments of self-reflection and occasional self-doubts that are, to me, essential to living a full life.

♦ Ooooops! In a tragic career blunder, a candidate to become Cornell Univ. Dean of Students tells audience “all students matter.” Until then, Vijay Pendakur had checked every box on the Social Justice Warrior Bingo Card. But such a serious, unforced error will end his chances, an one student explained.

Julia Montejo ’17, vice president [of the student assembly] for diversity and inclusion, expressed concerns about Pendakur’s approach of including all members of the community in a discussion about issues of diversity and inclusion.

“I’d like to hear more on how that kind of approach and philosophy still puts the concerns of minority students, students of color, underrepresented students, LGBTQ-identifying students and students with disabilities at the forefront,” Montejo said. “Underrepresented students feel really afraid to speak up and oftentimes those with more privilege in the room are more likely to take up more vocal and physical space.”

Quoted in the Cornell Daily Sun

It is a long-standing Cornell policy to allocate students more (or less) “vocal and physical space” according to their race, creed, color, sexual orientation, gender preference, and national origin.

UPDATE: A friend who understands these issues added a valuable comment: “Making campuses feel welcoming to historically unwelcome groups is extraordinarily important.  Having turned this goal into an Orwellian language is going to undermine a worthy goal.  Incredible that a dean of students can’t say that all students matter.” EXACTLY.

Cal State Los Angeles is now offering students the option of special “Pan African” housing.  Several conservative websites have called this “segregated housing,” but it is not clear if it will exclude all whites, Hispanics, and Asians. True, that is what the black students demanded last year. But what the university gave them is “the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community, designed [for students] interested in Pan-African history, culture and current affairs” The university says it has a waiting list for the housing. That advertisement, focusing on student interests rather than race, may be an effort by university lawyers to skirt Fair Housing Laws.

Still, if CSLA chooses to admit only black students, they might wish to call it “The Governor George Wallace Dormitory.” It was Wallace, after all, who demanded “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He would love the dorm. So would Ross Barnett, Lester Maddox, and David Duke. Opposing it would be every US Attorney General since the 1960s, with the possible exception of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. Creating race-specific housing would violate a whole slew of civil rights laws, some passed specifically to prevent such housing segregation.

At other California Universities, the usual onslaught of anti-Israel activities continues:

♦ San Francisco State University is secretly partnering with an Arab university that supports jihad, according to Cinnamon Stillwell’s reporting. This is the same university where campus policy stood by passively as a Palestinian group shouted down a talk in April by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. (Independent Journal Review) Such disruptions, often accompanied by threats of violence, are organized by Palestinian militants and their left-wing supporters on campuses across the US (and are even worse in Europe). They are part of a political strategy to ostracize and delegitimize Israel and dissuade its supporters from speaking out publicly or inviting pro-Israel speakers to campus. Kudos to Daniel Pipes, the Middle East Forum, and Campus Watch for following these issues closely and speaking out strongly against them.

♦ Abraham Miller excoriates “Cal Berkeley’s Latest Effort to Erase Jewish History From Israel; Hatem Bazian, sponsor of UCB’s new anti-Israel course, calls for an American intifada (The Observer)