NOTHSTINE: On the expanding campus censorship crisis

Demonstrators walk in a cloud of smoke after a brawl broke out during a Patriots Day Free Speech rally in Berkeley

Out of all the current cultural and social absurdity in America, censorship of speech on college campuses ranks near the top. “When speakers need police escort on and off college campuses, an alarm bell should be going off that something has gone seriously awry,” wrote Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute last week.In what is sadly becoming more of the norm, the mere presence of Mac Donald, whose topic “Blue Lives Matter” (as in police officers), was just too much for many students at Claremont McKenna College in California.Mac Donald was able to deliver an address on campus via telecast in early April, but only answered a few questions before being ushered off the premises because of safety concerns. (Her essay of the entire affair, published online at City Journal, is worth reading). “The day before, she says, event organizers told her they were considering changing the venue to a building with fewer glass windows to break,” wrote Bill McGurn in the Wall Street Journal. “Such are the considerations these days on the modern American campus.”On top of that, UC Berkley just announced the cancellation of a scheduled talk by commentator Ann Coulter. This in the wake of violent riots that resulted in the cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos’s address at the same school in February. A university once championed for its commitment to free expression in the 1960s now seems destined to babysit the next generation of proto-fascists.While I’m not a fan of some of Coulter’s blathering, she deserves credit for ignoring Berkley’s edict and has vowed to speak anyway. Berkley, like many schools, cites inability to guarantee the safety of speakers who dissent from campus group-think as the reason for cancellation. This is known as the “the heckler’s veto,” as the campus censorship mob mobilizes rapidly to squelch what it deems “offensive.” The mobs are sometimes further encouraged by campus overseers and academics who churn out their own diatribes on victimhood.Some administrators threaten discipline. But ironically, because of a need to appease perceived grievance groups, speech disruptors and rioters are often treated less like criminals than those who dare to engage in what the rioters consider thought crimes.One wonders if a country that once had to send in the National Guard and even the 101st Airborne to integrate schools in the American South will one day be compelled to send in troops to enforce the First Amendment at public colleges and universities.At a deeper level, as Mac Donald pointed out so well, the more serious concern is the rising number of “students who lack all understanding of the principles of the American Founding.” As James Madison noted, free speech is “the only effectual guardian of every other right.” And even more disturbing is not just the lack of understanding, but the outright rejection of an inherent right. For the mob, the American Framers are merely racist uniformed relics from the past.As news clips can testify, even conservatives elected to Congress are shouted down on some campuses. Amazingly, these same lawmakers seem to have no problems when addressing supposedly less intellectually advanced high schoolers.Americans and students not yet brainwashed by campus mobs and their enablers must push back and stand up for their rights. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a long track record of successfully defending citizens against free speech violators. “Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, the country could look quite different in a few years,” wrote Mac Donald.FIRE reports that campuses across America have over 230 “bias response teams” to compel cultural group-think. The full-frontal assault on speech on campuses shouldn’t be taken lightly. As some students and leftist mobs spiral further and further towards anarchy and violence, it’s not only dumbing down generations of students, but ushering in tyranny. Colleges and universities would be wise to reexamine who they enroll in their schools, and then recheck the principles and ideals they teach.Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.