Battling for Free Speech: Way Too Little Too Late

September 30, 2015

By Bernie Reeves at National Review

Is there hope? University of Chicago professor Geoffrey R. Stone and vice president Will Creeley of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) have joined together to write yet another in a long line of useless jeremiads lamenting what has become a hopeless epidemic of protected speech in higher education. And like the others who cry out that Western civilization is doomed, the authors offer a placebo, not a cure. In the so-called “Chicago statement” on the issue, the authors make clear that “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”    Admirable ideals, but what we are dealing with is like cancer: By waiting too long to seek treatment, the chances of recovery spiral downward. Radical scholars began infecting higher education with the “politically correct” disease of protected speech nearly 40 years ago. Looking back, the administrators and faculty should be tried for malpractice for not diagnosing, treating, or searching for a cure. There are exceptions, in the form of groups of concerned professors and lay people. NAS, the National Association of Scholars, was founded in 1987 by Dr. Stephen Balch, at the time a professor at John Jay College, and other concerned academics to confront the rising threat of politicization of colleges and universities. And FIRE, founded in 1999 by University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, after the positive response to their 1998 book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses, is dedicated and thorough in its crusade to bring back free speech on campus. While these two groups, and the handful of others, perform admirably — if not heroically — they are no match against the disease, and cannot ultimately save the academic corpus. Universities and most colleges have been fatally stricken for so long, no amount of treatment is effective — nor is there hope for a miracle drug. The insidious dimension of the disease is that patients look normal and healthy at first glance, but beneath the skin they are hopelessly doomed to dangerous beliefs and flawed philosophy. The speech code disease has spread like typhus from academia into Western society. Its hosts — the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association  — hold annual convocations where a revised, ersatz Robert’s Rules of Order is updated to include yet another taboo word or phrase, or to smear anyone who dared to defy the PC party line. In other words, the initiatives that pronounce “something has to be done” are too little too late. Protected speech, illiberal curricula, multiculturalism, and politically correct police are here to stay.

Schools: University of Chicago Cases: FIRE Launches Campaign in Support of University of Chicago Free Speech Statement