Yale Student Applauds His Critics, Laments Lack of Commitment to Free Speech

April 25, 2011

Yale sophomore Nate Zelinsky spent last week being anonymously attacked on the Internet and called a racist and classistbacklash from an opinion piece he authored on Sunday in the Yale Daily News. But Zelinsky isn’t complaining; in fact, he’s encouraging it.

On Friday, he penned yet another piece, this time defending his anonymous critics. In his article, Zelinsky extols the virtues of the marketplace of ideas and free speech on college campuses, while taking Yale and its student body to task for failing to do the same. He points to the recent exclusion of a preacher based on his views on homosexuality, as well as the investigation of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members for chants outside of the Yale Women’s Center. Sadly, he was also able to point to a fellow columnist’s article that espoused an "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em" approach: since other groups embrace punishing speech offensive to them, so should mine.

Zelinsky understands the special role that higher education occupies in the marketplace of ideas, and that the appropriate response to offensive speech is not censorship, but more speech:

Our society protects such speech, however incorrigible, because we have the right to offend. Yale has a unique obligation to protect all forms of dialogue – regardless of content – because of a university’s role as a marketplace and incubator of ideas.

. . .

The banning of offensive (as opposed to truly dangerous) speech discourages the most effective method of combating such expression: more speech. Refutation and counterprotest should be the mantra of the day.

To read the (excellent) full article, click here.

Schools:  Yale University