The Big Chill

By June 1, 2013

by Charlotte Allen

The Weekly Standard

 

It's a well-known fact that on most college campuses, supposedly havens of academic freedom, you really have to watch what you say.

The vast majority of America’s universities, both public and private, have speech codes that regulate the utterances of their students, professors, and administrators. Some of those codes at private universities spring from the religious or ethical missions of the institution, and it’s understandable that those campuses might want to forbid, say, swearing or pornography or insulting the institution’s faith tradition. But most campuses are avowedly secular, and what the speech codes enforce is political correctness. That means curtailing expressions deemed “offensive” (a word that appears in many a speech code) to the easily aroused sensibilities of a range of fashionable victim groups, especially militant feminists, for whom, say, fraternity pledges carrying posters reading “WE LOVE YALE SLUTS” outside the Yale Women’s Center constitutes “sexual harassment” (this actually happened in 2008). Some of the codes are laughably extreme. At California State University, Chico, for example, the definition of sexual harassment can include “reinforcement of sexist stereotypes through subtle, often unintentional means” and “continual use of generic masculine terms .  .  . to refer to people of both sexes...