One of my first memories from college is hearing the dean of students at my alma mater refer to Cornell University as “that other school ending in -nell.” Given that, I probably shouldn’t be blogging on Cornell again so soon, but given the harshness of my last post, it seems the only fair thing to do.
According to another piece in the Cornell Daily Sun, there was another “forum” on free speech there on October 26. This one seems to have been more closely related to the Cornell American controversy I mentioned before, and two panelists’ comments on that unfortunate turn of events strike me as profound improvements on the “confusion” I criticized in the prior post. The first comes from Isaac Kramnick, a professor of government. After emphasizing that he found the American issue in question to be “trash,” he goes on to make a crucial point:
Even hurtful speech, even trash, should be protected speech. I don’t think there should be any restrictions on the freedom of speech. I don’t want to give anyone the legal authority to determine what speech is allowed, what is worthy and what is trash.
Kramnick seizes here upon one of the important principles FIRE so often elucidates—that one need not agree with speech in order to defend the speaker’s rights. None of us here at FIRE agrees with the views of every student and professor we defend. It’s simply not possible to simultaneously agree with everything College Republicans, Ward Churchill, evangelical Christians, and PETA supporters say, just to name a few folks we’ve defended. But it’s also not necessary: if one really loves freedom, one knows it is worth defending in and of itself, not as a means to some other end.
Here is the other item from Cornell that caught my eye:
On the topic of funding The Cornell American, Mitch Fagen ’08, president of the Cornell Democrats and fellow panelist, believed that it would be “a very, very bad idea” for the SAFC to “censor” organizations.
Right on, Mitch. As I noted in my other post, I don’t agree with what was published in the American, and clearly neither does the leader of the Cornell Democrats. Yet he recognizes that even his most bitter opponents have rights. If only more students had the same integrity as this one, liberty on our campuses would be in far better shape.