The ignored DOJ scandal: anti-free speech codes on campuses

By on May 14, 2013

by William Jacobson

Legal Insurrection

 

Amidst all the scandals exposed these past two weeks, one is being ignored by the mainstream media and most of the conservative media as well — the actions of the Department of Justice and Department of Education to force colleges and universities to impose anti-free speech codes.

We wrote about this on Friday, The FIRE: “The government has mandated speech codes on all campuses”:

The FIRE is not an organization prone to hyperbole.

So when I received this email late this afternoon from FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley, it got my attention:

THIS. IS. OUTRAGEOUS. The government has mandated speech codes on all campuses. I hoped I would never see this day, but I feared I would.

This press release was linked in the email:

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MANDATES UNCONSTITUTIONAL SPEECH CODES AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES NATIONWIDE….

This is a continuation of the reign of politically correct terror on campuses, in which conservatives and men inevitably will be the ones singled out, a point we made inKangaroo courts for men on campus….

Now everything is a speech crime on campus, and the administrators get to pick and choose who is guilty.

There is a related article about the scandal at Minding The Campus, authored by noted liberalcivil libertarian Harvey Silverglate, a co-founder of The FIRE, and Juliana DeVries of The FIRE,The Feds Mandate Abolition of Free Speech on Campus:

In a breathtakingly bold move, the civil rights offices of both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have mandated the effective abolition of free speech on college campuses, as well as the almost certain conviction of large numbers of students, many of whom will be innocent, of “harassment.” Neither justice nor education will be well served.…

The inevitable result of this seemingly innocuous, or at least hyper-technical, rule is that all students would arguably be guilty of harassment several times a day. According to ED/DOJ standards, even playing uncensored rap music at a college party, posting something controversial on Facebook, or defending former U.S. Representative Todd Akin in class could now constitute “harassment.” (And engaging in satire or parody is just inviting expulsion!) It is now up to “victims” – presumably the more oversensitive or even neurotic members of the student community – to decide when unwelcome words constitute actionable harassment. In other words, in a hypothetical 500-person lecture on gender disparities in the workplace, the one person who takes offense to slide five has the power to silence the professor, and to keep the 499 other students from hearing the speech in question. The Supreme Court some time ago referred to this tactic as “burning the house to roast the pig,” and has consistently ruled it unconstitutional.…

The picture looks bleak, unless the bureaucrats have gone so far this time that those who value preserving our nation’s universities and a free society’s values will finally be galvanized to do something.

It’s understandable that the Benghazi cover up and lies, the IRS-Tea Party targeting scandal, and now the secret grabbing of AP phone records, all have consumed the media attention.

But the DOJ/DOE assault on free speech on campuses is in many ways more pernicious, it expanding a reign of campus speech code terror which targets individual students on campuses who do not have the resources or support mechanisms of organized groups seeking 501(c)(4) status.

Based on the history of campus speech codes, we can be certain that the DOJ/DOE assault on campus speech will be used almost exclusively against Tea Party-supporting, conservative and libertarian students who already are isolated on campuses, and who already struggle to have their voices heard.

If you value free speech on campuses, regardless of your political leanings, you need to be paying attention to and writing about this ignored DOJ scandal.

View this article at Legal Insurrection.