Apples and Oranges?

April 21, 2005

and National Review’s Corner are both linking to a story denouncing Denver University for
refusing to publish in an administration-run newspaper a controversial article
by former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm arguing that various cultural factors
are more to blame for the economic disadvantages of the black and Latino
communities than white racism and discrimination. Both Professor Reynolds and National Review’s Jonathan Adler set
this up as a case of hypocrisy and double standards. As Adler notes:

Ward Churchill should have the
right to denounce America,
but heaven forbid a former Democratic governor
wishes to criticize affirmative action.

While I think the DU administration’s refusal to publish
Governor Lamm’s article on the grounds that it was “controversial” is silly,
this is not an example of hypocrisy or double standards. A double standard
would exist if Governor Lamm was “investigated” for publishing his views in an
outside publication. The mere fact that one Colorado university (rightfully) refused to
punish a professor for the expression of leftist political views that were
offensive to a large number of Americans does not then give other universities
an obligation to print controversial articles by conservatives. No one has a
right to have his or her articles printed by school-run publications.

It may seem as if I’m nitpicking, but these distinctions
make a difference. In fact, more than once has FIRE seen case submissions from
individuals upset that universities “allow” one form of speech while not
providing them with their own chosen platform for rebuttal. But, for example,
simply because a tenured professor widely publishes anti-Bush essays (or makes
anti-Bush arguments in class) does not mean that a person is entitled to rebut
those arguments in a guest editorial in the student newspaper. If the argument
is that DU’s official publication is essentially a mouthpiece for one point of
view, then make that argument. Otherwise, those who steadfastly refuse to
believe there is a problem in higher education will point to complaints like
Adler’s as evidence that we’re just not thinking clearly about the issues.