During FIRE’s most recent speech code victory, my friend Duncan Currie at the Weekly Standard called Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki’s free-speech-loving trustee campaign “The Dartmouth Insurgency.” And the more I read about what’s going on at Hamilton College, the more I think the answer to the question David posed here before (“Is Hamilton the Next Dartmouth?”) might be a resounding “yes.”
A statement just published on the Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform blog by trustee candidate Brendan McCormick, for example, includes lots of statements that might as well have been taken out of FIRE literature. In discussing how he would change the way Hamilton works, McCormick quotes (as we so often do) Justice Brandeis, stating, “I agree with the maxim that ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’” And perhaps even more notably, McCormick takes a very evenhanded approach to the controversy that erupted when Ward Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton. He explicitly states that he “support[s] Churchill’s right to spew hateful insults at the dead on his own dime,” merely expressing concerns that Churchill (perhaps because he does not have a Ph.D.) was not enough of a scholar to merit a Hamilton invitation.
FIRE, of course, does not have an official position on Churchill’s scholarship; that’s not the point. What impresses me is that McCormick seems to recognize (in a way few others do—yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Attorney General of New Jersey) that it is inappropriate to censor even speech one abhors. And if McCormick’s colleagues share his appreciation for free speech and the way that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” it seems to me a victory for them in this trustee race might also be a victory for liberty.