‘Cato Unbound’ Series Continues ‘Conversation Phase’ as FIRE’s Susan Kruth Responds to Posner, Ross

January 25, 2016

In our second response to critiques in Cato Unbound’s debate series highlighting “Free Speech on College Campuses,” FIRE Senior Program Officer Susan Kruth expands on FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s original essay and confronts criticisms from his interlocutors.

Greg’s original piece, “Free Speech on Campus Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time,” kicked off the Cato Institute-sponsored series on January 4. Cato characterizes each lead essay as “a big-picture topic by an important thinker.” This series features responses by University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner and George Washington University Law School professor Catherine J. Ross.

In this latest engagement, Susan responds to Posner’s assertion that “[i]n most of Lukianoff’s examples, the student (or professor, in one case) engaged in speech that was on the margin of other activities that are appropriately regulated, such as distributing leaflets and threatening students or faculty.” Susan notes that the distribution of literature, for example, is “hardly on the margin of protected speech” and historically has been used as a weapon in defense of liberty.

Susan also objects to Posner’s contention that the majority of FIRE’s work deals with “borderline” cases that implicate “campus order, safety, and security”:

There’s nothing borderline about a public university attempting to censor professors’ criticism of the administration, a student being threatened with removal from campus for petitioning against NSA surveillance, a student newspaper that was investigated for nearly a year for two articles. Any FIRE staffer could go on and on with examples—as could Posner, if he had visited our website.

Susan rounds off her piece with a challenge to Posner’s suggestion that universities don’t punish speech simply for being offensive. In response, Susan cites a litany of cases where FIRE has come to the defense of students and faculty members against universities that have done exactly that.

Click over to read the full response, “Campus Free Speech Problems Are More Than Meets the Eye,” on Cato Unbound’s website.