February 21, 2020

Fighting for Free Speech on Campus

Leftists embrace and promote a system of higher education built on anti-American ideas.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring institutions of higher learning “to promote free and open debate.” Progressives largely opposed the measure, claiming the perceived assault on free speech is exaggerated.

Tell that to a conservative gun-rights supporter who was surrounded by a left-wing mob at Ohio University earlier this week. The Washington Post reports, “Students swarmed Kaitlin Bennett and her companions in a tense encounter Monday captured in several videos … showing students yelling, flipping off the visitors and at one point throwing drinks through an open window of their truck.” Bennett’s crime? She went to campus to ask students about “Presidents’ Day.”

Campus hostility toward conservative and libertarian speakers is an ongoing problem, but it goes further. There’s a powerful culture in academia that strongly discourages students from expressing traditional views on a range of topics. This culture is reinforced by the books they’re assigned, the classes they take, the papers they write, and the policies and programs implemented by the administration.

College students today must embrace, for example, the “LGBTQ” agenda, open-borders policies, theories of systemic racism, and a certain kind of socialist “solution” to climate change. They must be open to criticizing America’s and Western civilization’s founding principles. Students who conform are embraced and engaged by their classmates and professors. Those who don’t are marked as the enemy.

“Currently, I would estimate that around a quarter of Americans not only are indifferent to free speech as a fundamental value of our society, but are determined to snuff it out as soon as they have the power to do so,” John Hinderaker writes at Power Line. “They represent, generally speaking, the activist wing of the Democratic Party.”

One insidious way that colleges and universities promote leftist ideology is through mandatory student fees.

David French, former director of Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Academic Freedom, writes at The Dispatch, “Vast amounts of money are channeled into specifically and intentionally ideological enterprises. Student fees prop up interest groups, and sometimes they support ideologically driven campus ‘centers’ dedicated to gender equity or LGBT equality.”

Sure, conservative and religious clubs and organizations on campus may get a few dollars here and there, but that’s merely done to make the system look unbiased. “The end result is that students are involuntarily forced to fund an enormous amount of campus activism,” French adds. “It’s a comprehensive system of compelled speech that would be shockingly unconstitutional virtually everywhere but the academy.”

Of course, the crackdown on free speech goes well beyond student fees. The effort is multi-pronged, and it’s designed to embrace and promote a system of higher education built on anti-American ideas.

Older professors are being replaced with young, leftist ideologues already programmed in the new groupthink by teacher-education programs. They set up shop in their offices, eager to regurgitate their philosophy to unsuspecting students who haven’t a clue that they’re part of a reeducation program.

The result is that conservative students engage in self-censorship, itself a powerful way for the Left to silence opposing viewpoints instead of engaging them in the marketplace of ideas. Students holding traditional views fear speaking up in class or challenging those with so-called progressive viewpoints, even when their own worldview is openly attacked. Likewise, conservative professors remain silent in faculty meetings and elsewhere.

Of course, colleges and universities have official statements affirming their commitment to free speech and open dialogue. To the uncritical eye, the spirit of the First Amendment seems to be in good hands.

Don’t be fooled. There’s no such thing as free speech in the academic world, and it should worry all of us. We only need to look to Europe to get a glimpse of what awaits us when this next generation of radicals assumes power.

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