FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores how university administrators’ try to squelch student speech acting “like the censors of the Victorian era—morally infallible, plugged into absolute truth, and engaged in saving the country’s soul from incivility or impropriety.
As Greg points out, FIRE’s recent cases at Johns Hopkins University, San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Columbia University’s Teachers College have all brought with them galling attempts by university officials to crack down on expression by a variety of different methods that seem to want to save campus communities from impropriety. These tactics range from establishing a rule stating “rude and disrespectful behavior is unwelcome” at Hopkins, to threatening students who were disrespectful to others’ religion at SFSU, to maintaining a policy of evaluating students on their “commitment to social justice” at Teachers College.
As Greg writes:
It is true that the similarity between the narrow-minded Victorian censors and those of the present day campus may only exist because authoritarianism manifests in a finite number of forms—the rationales for censorship and repression are predictable, generally uncreative, and tend to repeat through history with the monotony of a terrible skipping record. The results are, also, sadly predictable: crushing dissent squelches innovation and utterly impedes the noble search for truth and greater understanding. FIRE exists as a counterforce to this troubling and longstanding trend, and working together with the public and our supporters, we can help bring the eternally radical ideas of individual liberty, academic freedom, and the right to private conscience back to our campuses.
To read the complete text of the column, see page 2 of The FIRE Quarterly.