By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Free speech has been under assault at American colleges and universities. Students and compliant college administrators are complicit in that assault. Rioters wreaked havoc Wednesday night on the University of California, Berkeley, campus over a planned speech by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, destroying a Starbucks, breaking windows and setting fires.The unrest prompted the university to cancel the appearance by the far-right commentator in order to ensure the safety of students and the speaker, officials said.
During the past 12 months, students rioters and protesters have forced dozens of speakers to cancel their scheduled engagements. According to the New York Post “The target of student riots are invariably either conservatives or anyone whose position does not agree with the rioters. At Berkeley hours before the planned speech, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators at the event were carrying signs reading, “Hate speech is not free speech.”
But the situation turned violent when a smaller group of protesters wearing masks and black hooded sweatshirts began shooting off fireworks and hurling metal barricades into storefront windows.
They then started a large bonfire outside the auditorium where Yiannopoulos was to speak and busted up the Starbucks.
Yiannopoulos’ visit to Berkeley was sponsored by the campus Republican Club. The university stressed it had not invited him and does not endorse his ideas but is committed to free speech.”
President Trump responded to the violence in a Tweet: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
Free speech and First Amendment rights are in danger from leftist faculty and students at many institutions of higher education. These students and faculty are often aided by an indulgent and perhaps sympathetic university administration. Free speech should be a key element of learning. Safe spaces, trigger, warnings, and micro-aggressions are all barriers to free speech that have been allowed to run rampant in colleges across America. Trump is absolutely correct to threaten a cut in Federal funding.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial on January 31, Peter Berkowitz Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute, advocated defunding colleges that deny free speech:
“Something is wrong with American higher education. Colleges and universities offer encomiums to free speech and inquiry, which the First Amendment protects, at least in theory, at public institutions. But the unmistakable trend in higher education is to police speech and thought.
Colleges and universities promulgate speech codes. Administrators, professors and students encourage “trigger warnings” and demand punishment for “microaggressions”—a pretentious word for inadvertent slights—and insist on “safe spaces” from which troubling opinions and ideas are banished. Campus authorities disinvite controversial speakers and look the other way when students shout down dissenters who somehow slipped through. The transparent goal is to prevent any deviation from the reigning orthodoxy……
The democratic process can change this balance of incentives. At the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, in collaboration with Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, will unveil “model state-level legislation designed to safeguard freedom of speech at America’s public university systems.”
The proposal is aimed at state universities because they are subject to the First Amendment and depend for their mandate and their revenues on state governments. But the key provisions are inspired by three exemplary private university reports that expound the principles of free speech in higher education: the University of Chicago’s Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action (1967), the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale (1974) and the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression (2015), also from the University of Chicago.
Mr. Berkowitz’s recommendations deserve serious consideration. No university will remain great or even aspire to greatness if it is an enemy of free speech and the First Amendment.