By Rebecca Downs at Red Alert Politics
In a piece re-posted for Newsweek, George C. Leef writes “Needed on Campus: Tolerance Training.” His post is not the typical eye-roll inducing defense of diversity training, or sensitivity training, or whatever it happens to be called. Leef seeks to defend students, but not so much those student protesters as he does those who are affected by what can happen when inclusivity is taken too far.
Leef explains the right to speech students have, being the First Amendment at public universities. At private universities, Leef refers to how “the protection for freedom of speech has to be found (at least in most states) in the implicit contract the school enters into with each incoming student.”
That brings readers to this ridiculous example, which Leef prefaces with “if Franz Kafka or George Orwell had toyed with a similar plot, they’d probably have rejected it as too far-fetched.”
Colorado College has a policy against “Abusive Behavior” and “Disruption of College Activities.” In November, student Thaddeus Pryor was found to have violated that policy because in response to a comment on Yik Yak that “#blackwomenmatter,” he wrote “They matter they’re just not hot.”
A student complained, Pryor’s identity was found out, and the dean of students called him into a meeting. That Pryor was joking, and soon after regretted it and deleted the comment, did not matter. As Leef comments, with original emphasis, “what [Pryor] did not realize is that there are now many things that must not be joked about on college campuses.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a copy of the letter which Pryor was sent, informing him that he violated school policy. More importantly it suspended Pryor from November 20, 2015 until August 28, 2017, though his return is not automatic. He cannot step foot on campus and will not be allowed to take college credits elsewhere.
The College Fix reported that Pryor’ was able to get his sentence down from 21 months to 6 months. His friend, Lou Henriques, was expelled. Just as it didn’t matter that Pryor was joking, it also didn’t seem to matter that far worse things were being said about white students. The student with a conscience is the one being punished.
FIRE is helping Pryor to appeal the punishment. In addition to opining that “there is a strong likelihood that a jury would find Colorado College in breach of contract,” should the case go to trial, Leef lets the school have it.
When it comes to if Pryor actually violated such policy, Leef notes that “a reasonable person would say ‘of course not,’ but many college administrators these days are not reasonable.” He adds that “they are social-justice apparatchiks, eager to use their power to punish perceived enemies of progress like Thaddeus Pryor.”
While Leef highlights this one case, he writes that “this incident is emblematic of a widespread problem in American higher education today: Administrators think it’s their job to police what is said on campus, even comments on a social media app.”
On these “vague speech codes” and “harassment policies,” Leef says they “tend to tend to attract mandarins who are not scholars and do not value free speech and unfettered debate. They are committed to “progressive” causes and will gladly use their power to silence or punish anyone who doesn’t go along.”
And this is where the title comes in. At the end, Leef references student protesters demanding “diversity training” be mandated. A list of top student demands just revealed that it is the second most common demand at 51 colleges. But when we have situations like Pryor’s is that really what schools need?
Leef believes colleges need “tolerance training… a special emphasis on the importance of free speech.” Leef even suggests that those who don’t “get it” go work somewhere else. It is time school administrators cater not solely to the student protesters and their demands, with many of them likely doing so out of fear. Thaddeus Pryor is just as much of a victim against an abusive system.