Thursday, November 12, 2015
First Amendment under Fire on Campus
First Amendment under Fire on Campus
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 12, 2015
The cost of college is so expensive even speech is no longer free. More and more students on college campuses across the United States are actually willingly seeking a limitation or even a curtailment of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Let’s take a look at what the clearly uneducated masses are willing to surrender under the guise of eliminating not just hate speech, but hurt speech.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (United States Constitution)
Students from the East Coast bastion of Ivy League liberalism at Yale University to the Left Coast bastion of California liberalism at Claremont McKenna College to the heartland and the University of Missouri and points in between are making ludicrous demands of their so-called institutions of higher learning and the alleged adults in the room are folding like a bad poker hand.
Discourse on campus used to be welcomed. Students were free to speak their minds, debate, argue, even shout a little without fear of retribution, censorship, or even expulsion or the risk of being fired if a campus employee.
One of my fond experiences at the liberal University of Maryland was to sit outside my dorm room and discuss history, politics, the issues of the day, as well as the upcoming presidential election until the wee hours with my next door neighbor. Me – white, he – black; me – Jewish, he – a Christian; me – conservative, he – not so much. We agreed on little, but we respected one another because we could have an intelligent conversation, and yes even argue, but come away shaking hands and even have lunch the next day. Disagreement does not equal disrespect.
But my experience on the College Park, MD campus was not all wine and roses. I encountered first hand anti-Semitism, but I did not demand the firing of the university president. It was certainly unpleasant to be sure, and even a bit traumatic, but it didn’t destroy me like a newspaper in the rain.
Today’s college students, by and large, and most certainly the liberal, progressive, socialist, secular students are incapable of tolerance. To them, if you do not kow-tow to their far left beliefs, you should be sent to reeducation camp, banished from the campus, and be labeled an intolerant hater. It is perfectly alright for them to be the hater because they have right on their side, he writes dripping with sarcasm. Today’s students demand safe zones, whatever the hell those are. To me a safe zone should be the entirety of the campus – safe for all to reside, study, work, play, and yes, debate and argue about issues knowing that some feelings may get hurt.
There is no constitutional protection against hurt feelings – that’s called the freedom of speech. The answer to bad or hate speech is not squelching speech, but inviting more speech. This generation of crybabies on campus wants no speech contrary to their own. Anything of a hurtful or disagreeable nature calls for protests and petitions for firing university presidents. Just wait until they are expectorated from that cocoon they call home on campus and enter the cold, hard reality of the ugly world.
Make no mistake; I am not calling for the end of protests and petitions. I live for a good protest and have written more than my fair share of petitions from junior high through graduate school. While peaceful protests are protected by the First Amendment, so too is stupidity. Stupid speech or disagreeable speech or even hurtful speech is also protected by the First Amendment. The notion of free speech zones on a campus that should be a wealth of ideas and discussion smacks of Orwell’s 1984. The entirety of the campus should be a free speech zone.
The idea that a so-called instructor of journalism at the University of Missouri would attempt to deny a student photographer his First Amendment right to conduct his duties is reprehensible. But that is exactly what Melissa Click, Ph. D. (U-Mass.) did to Tim Tai in her attempt to suppress the press. Tai behaved professionally in his constitutionally protected attempts to complete his photo-journalism assignment, while Click behaved like a rabid dog screaming for Tai to leave the site of a protest on the Columbia, MO campus. At one point, Click called for “muscle” to eliminate the problem.
According to the New York Times Click has stepped down from her post as an assistant professor at the School of Journalism. This marks the third resignation this week from Missouri. University President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin have already tendered their resignations under pressure by a mob of students citing insufficient response to alleged racism on campus. Those resignations will solve little and if there is a spate of racism on campus, which must be addressed, it is the hearts and minds of the perpetrators that require changing, not the heads of the university.
The possible racism is the impetus of the protests, a hunger strike by graduate student Jonathan Butler, as well as a potential strike by roughly 30 football players of this weekend’s game against BYU.
Wolfe and Loftin folded like a pair of cheap suits. They should have called the bluff of those football players. Not all the players were part of this plan and the team could have suited up enough players to field a team. If Missouri had to forfeit, costing the university one million dollars, that money should come from the striking players’ scholarships. Those players should be suspended for the duration of the season and tryouts should be held for walk-ons for the remaining three games. Shame on Wolfe and Loftin for caving to mob demands. If anyone should be out of job it should be head football coach Gary Pinkel for not reining in his players. The inmates are now running the asylum.
Missouri is not the only campus where chaos is reigning supreme. In California at Claremont McKenna College Dean of Students Mary Spellman resigned following student protests demanding more programming for black, gay, disabled, and low-income students. No explanation as to why Spellman felt she had to fall on some imaginary sword, when meeting with students could have solved their problems. Yet another sign of weakness, which actually solves nothing. Spellman is out of a job and the students’ demands have not been met or even heard. Now a new dean of students must be named, given time to settle in, adjust to the culture of the campus or to the job if not new to the campus before even tackling the concerns of the students, which could be long into the spring 2016 semester.
Additionally, on the CMC campus junior class President Kris Brackmann unnecessarily resigned having appeared in a photo with others who were clad in Mexican-themed Halloween costumes – replete with sombreros, ponchos, and moustaches. Is Brackmann, who did not don the so-called offensive costume, responsible for the choices of her friends? In her resignation, Brackmann wrote that she hopes to foster a “safe environment for everyone.” Who was made unsafe by those costumes? Who was threatened? Are people so innately weak and thin-skinned that the mere sight of a cultural Halloween costume is the cause of consternation? If so, those students have bigger problems. The real world will chew them up and spit them out like rubbery calamari.
Halloween costumes are also the source of animus and over-emphasized hysteria at Yale. The university produced costume guidelines for the students on campus. Since when does a university enforce a costume dress code? Are the campus denizens not adults?
Enter Nicholas and Erika Christakis. The couple lives on the New Haven campus presiding over an undergraduate college via resident life. Erika is also a lecturer in early childhood education, which is ironic, as she composed an e-mail that students are adults, should have the freedom of costume choice and the university’s guidelines were unnecessary.
Students were apoplectic, calling for the resignations of the Christakises because of the e-mail Erika dispatched. Have students surrendered their ability to think for themselves? Apparently they actually want the university to thrust a costume dress code upon them for fear of possibly offending someone with a potentially insensitive costume choice for the evening. And for this perceived slight, Nicholas and Erika Christakis should stand in the unemployment line?
Not only should Yale students not have the power to choose their own Halloween costumes, but the concept of free speech on campus is too much for them to handle as well. A conference to be held on the subject of free speech was disrupted by liberals or fascists – either way, students opposed to the First Amendment. Not only did those rambunctious students stop the free speech event, their unruliness included spitting on the participants and attendees.
Also under fire is Carol Swain, Ph. D. (U-North Carolina) a professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and a conservative Christian. A petition, composed by a student never having studied under Swain, and signed by more than 1,500 people, has at its core, a virtual non-issue. Swain posts materials to “Christian Conservatives” on-line. The petition, in part, says “…it is generally unprofessional to attach your job title to a channel promoting your personally held beliefs.”
This, clearly, is much ado about nothing, as professionals appearing on public programming have their name and title posted. Apparently the petitioners seeking, initially Swain’s dismissal, now “merely” her suspension, have an axe to grind because she is a conservative and a Christian. Swain, who is black, is also accused of hating minorities. Those seeking Swain’s ouster have an agenda that in no way supports diversity of speech or thought. Nor do they support diversity in terms of gender or race as the pecking order apparently does not include Swain being black and female when Christian and conservative trump the former. Hypocrisy coupled with political correctness is a dangerous combination.
So politically correct have the university campuses become, that any speech can be designated hurt speech – the new nonsense. G-d forbid nothing objectionable should pass through ears and into the empty heads of the precious flowers marching through campus in lockstep demanding the firing of anyone who dare utter something with which they disagree.
In 1783 George Washington wrote, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” The knives are sharpening, America.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.