When one embarks upon a mission to eliminate speech codes from college campuses it’s tough to know where to start. Some codes ban speech that is merely “offensive.” Some ban speech that is “maligning.” Others ban speech that “challenges.” Imagine a college that guarantees a four year education without any fear of being challenged. It’s as easy as imagining a worthless college education.
Whatever the reasons, it was just over a year ago today that we agreed to target the speech code at Appalachian State University. The “we” began as a joint effort between the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia. The FIRE and the Pope Center wrote a report on censorship in the UNC system, which got surprisingly good coverage in the mainstream media.
Next, the Pope Center sent me out on a brief speaking tour covering several UNC campuses. Appalachian State was the third stop on the tour.
My speech at ASU went pretty well until I accidentally let my voice (which was raspy from a minor cold) slide into an impression of William Jefferson Clinton. As one who is well-known for his political impersonations I could not resist a little wisecrack. Looking down beneath the podium, I said—in my best Clinton accent—“Get up off the floor, Monica! I think I hear Hillary coming.”
That’s when I got an abrupt reminder of the “right to be un-offended,” which is sincerely felt—though not actually held—by all of the liberal dope smoking hippies (about 2/3rds of the student population) at ASU.
In fact, two long-haired Clinton supporters got up and stormed out of the auditorium—turning off the lights as they left the room—just as soon as I made them uncomfortable with a flashback of Monica in thong underwear on the Oval Office floor. (I thought it was a pretty symbolic gesture. Once the first person gets offended, it’s time for everyone else to go home.)
Of course, it wasn’t exactly time to go home that evening. I finished my speech and then got to move on to the question and answer session. During the Q and A, a freshman at ASU asked me about the speech code. Specifically, he complained that a political science professor kept reminding him of the speech code every time he espoused a conservative idea in class discussion. But—no matter how far off the charts their comments might be—leftist students were never seen as running afoul of the code.
When the student asked if he had a legal case, I put him in touch with the Alliance Defense Fund. But while the legal complaint was still being drafted, something unexpected happened. The local ACLU did the right thing and got involved.
As a result of the team effort, ASU decided to get rid of its speech code without an embarrassing lawsuit. Consider the organizations that were involved in this successful First Amendment mission:
The ACLU: A left-wing civil liberties organization.
The ADF: A conservative Christian civil liberties organization.
DrAdams.org: A fringe group led by a right-wing gun-toting nut job from North Carolina.
The FIRE: A non-partisan free speech organization.
The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy: A libertarian/conservative group in North Carolina.
This left/right/center attack on the unconstitutional speech code at ASU shows that people of different political persuasions can work together, even in today’s fractured political environment. But aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling we are all getting from knowing that we can put aside our differences and work together, there is another – perhaps even more important – benefit derived from the removal of the ASU speech code. It has something to do with feminist speech at ASU.
Now that the speech code is gone from ASU, the feminists at the Women’s Center are free to pursue an important project they may have been afraid to pursue back when “offending others” was seen as trumping the First Amendment. I am talking, of course, about the construction of the six-foot vagina costume the Women’s Center has been planning for the last several years.
After the ASU speech code was removed, construction of the six-foot vagina resumed and, thankfully, it was recently completed. Click here (warning: graphic photo) to see just how far the women’s movement has come in recent years. Or just visit the campus of ASU where you can actually see a feminist walking around in a six-foot vagina costume.
It is worth remembering that the greatest evil of censorship is not that it robs us of the truth. It is that it robs us of a greater appreciation of the truth via its juxtaposition with feminist stupidity.