Bloomberg and Koch in ‘The Wall Street Journal’: ‘Stop stifling free speech’

May 13, 2016

This month, before venturing forth beyond campus for good, graduates nationwide are receiving words of wisdom from commencement speakers offering advice about how the new degree-holders might achieve their full potential. In that spirit, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Charles Koch join forces today in an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal to offer “urgent advice”—not for students, however, but for college administrators:

Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress.

Bloomberg and Koch point out that while they personally disagree with each other on a number of issues, they both believe that the campus culture of “so-called ‘safe spaces,’ ‘speech codes,’ ‘trigger warnings,’ ‘microaggressions,’” and disinvitations creates “a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning.”

The two cite FIRE’s research and work on tracking disinvitation attempts on college campuses—noting that there have been 18 attempts to disinvite speakers this year, and 11 of the attempts have been successful.

FIRE is pleased to see these two influential figures unite for free speech on campus. As Torch readers know, FIRE consistently defends students and faculty from across the political and ideological spectrum, and we are always gratified to see those who have significant differences in other areas find common cause in supporting the First Amendment and free expression rights. We hope more opinion-makers will follow Bloomberg and Koch’s lead and join us in advocating for student and faculty free speech rights.