Defending free speech is often an exhilarating and rewarding experience, fighting the good fight in an uphill battle for constitutional rights against an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. But sometimes, and this was one of those weeks, that hill looks pretty steep. Greg writes in his latest column on The Huffington Post on the "hell week for campus free speech."
- FIRE broke the story of newspaper theft at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where students stole copies of a conservative student paper right in front of a campus police officer (all caught on tape).
- The University of Maryland cancelled the showing of Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge, an X-rated film probably protected by the First Amendment, under threat by the state legislature.
- Yet another Bill Ayers speech was cancelled, this time at Boston College.
- Virginia Tech is still considering including a "commitment to diversity" in its professors’ files to be used in tenure and promotion decisions.
- Last but not least, the Oklahoma legislature is remaining silent on whether it will investigate Richard Dawkins’ speech last month at the University of Oklahoma.
Gee whiz. With a week like that, a three o’clock martini is in order. As to why these incidents are so discouraging to those of us who love living in a free society, Greg gets it right in his closing paragraph:
Fighting for free speech on campus can be a tough and disillusioning career choice some weeks, and this is definitely one of those weeks. I recognize that campuses are in many ways the front lines in the culture wars, but I just wish that people would remember that the Bill of Rights and the protections on free speech were designed as the ground rules for maintaining a diverse and pluralistic society. These days, however, it seems that this lesson has been lost and that far too many people only believe in free speech to the extent to which it protects them, and throw it out the window when it’s a point of view with which they disagree. If students keep learning these kind of lessons, whether they be taught by campus administrators or state legislatures, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many of them believe there is nothing wrong with destroying publications they don’t like.