It’s FIRE’s pleasure to introduce our undergraduate interns here on the CFN blog. We begin with a post from Braum Katz, a rising sophomore at the College of William and Mary.
A Lesson in Vigilance at Jefferson’s Alma Mater
In 1762, William and Mary’s most cherished alumnus graduated from the College. Thomas Jefferson would go on to become America’s leading sage on free speech and the utmost importance of an unhindered exchange of ideas. That the very principle of a society based on an open exchange of ideas that Jefferson diligently studied at the College has come under attack by the College’s modern-day administration saddens me beyond belief. The historical amnesia that has plagued the College’s administration is truly outstanding and the irony could not be more pronounced.
Fast forward to today. As of 2005, Tim Sullivan has been succeeded by Gene Nichol as President of the College. President Nichol, the one time Cutler Professor of Constitutional Law and director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College, has thus far proven a true friend to the principles of free exchange on college campuses. This past spring, amidst a firestorm of controversy surrounding a sex worker’s art show funded by student funds, Nichol steadfastly refused to intervene, stating:
Although I personally have faith in President Nichol’s commitment to the principles he himself has studied so enthusiastically, early reports of administrative censorship at a recent student protest put on by the Students for a Democratic Society is disconcerting. While the details of this incident are still forthcoming, I am reminded that as a student I must always remain vigilant and aware. While promises of protecting free speech are one thing, actual commitment beyond rhetoric is quite another. I sincerely hope that President Nichol’s dedication to preserving free expression continues to go beyond superficial lip service.
As members of the CFN, we must all support and encourage one another to remain vigilant and unafraid to confront administrative abuses when they arise. I genuinely look forward to connecting with all of you on the network. I have no doubt whatsoever that together we can make big strides on our respective campuses.