Tags: Political | Bias | Corrodes | Free | Speech | Campus

Political Bias Corrodes Free Speech on Campus

Friday, 10 December 2004 12:00 AM

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

“Liberating tolerance,” Herbert Marcuse famously wrote in 1965, is “intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.”

The very place where speech should be the freest is where speech faces its greatest restrictions. This is especially true if the one expressing that speech does so in a way that the Left doesn’t like.

During Thanksgiving break, newspaper thieves stole the entire press run of The Yale Free Press. The latest theft follows a similar one a few years ago of another conservative publication at Yale, Light and Truth, by resident assistants working for the school.

The school punished no one in the earlier thefts, so what deterrent would anti-free speech activists face for the new round of thefts? Already, the Yale administration shows little interest in investigating the current matter.

When student editors complained to the school’s dean of students, she passed the buck and told the editors to make a complaint to each head of Yale’s eleven residential colleges.

An anonymous Rutgers University group calling itself Progressive Activists took credit for stealing about 5,000 copies of the Medium, a weekly humor magazine that had offended campus feminists by mocking them.

Shortly before the disappearance of stacks of the issue, a Rutgers women’s studies professor teaching a course called “Woman, Culture and Society” required her students to get their peers to sign a petition calling for a campus-wide ban on the Medium.

Rutgers feminists dismiss a connection between the feminist professor’s assignment and the newspaper thefts. “I don’t even know that they’re stolen,” the head of the Rutgers women’s studies department dismissively told columnist Paul Mulshine. “Do you have evidence that they’re stolen?”

On the Internet, where difficulties arise in newspaper confiscation, the Left’s response to conservative student publications is nevertheless disturbing.

In reaction to campus conservative netzine BSYou.net, an angry Ball State University employee and PhD candidate, Christopher Wendt, allegedly superimposed the female undergraduate editor’s face on pornographic images and posted them on another site.

Jim Eltringham of the Campus Leadership Program, the organization I direct and that helped underwrite BSYou.net, commented on the cybersmear: “There are many acceptable and appropriate ways to answer political speech. Harassment, intimidation, and doctored pornography are not among them.”

Restrictions on speech are a normal part of one-party states. With campaign donations to John Kerry outnumbering campaign donations to George W. Bush $32 to $1 at Harvard, $22 to $1 at Penn, and $11 to $1 at Yale, can anyone doubt that elite campuses have become one-party institutions?

In a one-party state, speech that challenges the orthodoxy threatens those in power. Because activists, faculty, and administrators are so used to operating in an intellectual ghetto, the introduction of differing ideas often has the effect of short-circuiting their mental circuits.

Unable to effectively respond with more speech, the campus Left protects their turf by imposing speech codes, shouting down speakers, and confiscating newspapers.

Just as is the case with biased courses, a politically stacked professoriate, and bans on military recruiters and the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the long-term solution to academic assaults on freedom of speech demands injecting more mainstream ideas into the campus debate. This primarily involves both setting up alternative institutions and conservatives taking a greater role in existing ones.

Does balance in higher education sound far-fetched? Sure, but so did a more balanced media before Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Matt Drudge, and NewsMax. Ditto for DC-based think-tanks, which the Left dominated before the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Family Research Council, and other right-leaning groups came along.

A worthy marketplace of ideas can happen on America’s campuses, but only if conservatives — as they did with the media and think-tanks—actually do something about it. It certainly won’t happen through appealing to the fairness of liberal professors and administrators.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of


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Part I: Part II: Part III: "Liberating tolerance," Herbert Marcuse famously wrote in 1965, is "intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left." The very place where speech should be the freest is where speech faces its...
Friday, 10 December 2004 12:00 AM
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