A Call to Arms Against Campus Speech Codes

I hope you caught my op-ed in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal about the decision in Barnes v. Zaccari and how it could point the way to a strategy for ending the scandal of campus speech codes. I considered the Barnes case so bad that I used it as the example to open my book Unlearning Liberty and have written extensively about it over the last six years. As Ricochet readers know, the scofflaw university president in this case was held personally liable for ignoring the student’s due process rights to the tune of $50,000 in compensatory damages and will likely owe many times that in attorney’s fees. But, sadly, Georgia taxpayers may end up having to cover his costs.

If you missed the article (or if you are a non-subscriber) here is the main point:

The state should no more pay to defend a university president who ignored the Constitution than it should pay to defend a university president who committed a crime. [….]

More than a dozen major court rulings have forced public universities to end unconstitutional restrictions on speech. My organization has given hundreds of top colleges notice that their policies would likely be similarly struck down by courts. Because the law regarding student First Amendment rights is so clearly established, when public universities are proved guilty of enforcing unlawful speech codes anyway, administrators should be held personally liable. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to continue to bail out those who strip their sons and daughters of their most basic rights.

  1. Anne R. Pierce

    At NAS.org (National Association of Scholars), a featured article is 100 Great Ideas for Higher Education. Here’s one of the ideas.  If reading about America’s founding were a routine (should it be required?) part of American education, I believe college students would be objecting, in much greater numbers,  to unconstitutional restrictions on speech.

    “REQUIRE AMERICAN HISTORY Charles L. King, Professor Emeritus of Spanish, University of Colorado, Boulder; former Editor, The Modern Language Journal Every American college and university should require all freshmen to complete a semester’s course in American history, an unrevised and unbiased history focusing primarily on the principles advocated by our nation’s Founding Fathers. The goal of the required course is to provide all students with the objective truth of American history, especially of our Constitution, and the basic principles upon which America was founded and which have enabled it to become a truly great nation of free citizens. No student in an American institution of higher education should be allowed to continue college studies without having received a passing grade in this course in American history.”
  2. 10 cents

    In thinking about college campuses I shake my head and say, “Why, why, why?”  I have come up with an answer. I think it is the rise of psychology. It used to be “Sticks and stones will break my bones. but words will never hurt me.” Now a hint of harsh words will cause deep emotional pain which will need counseling and maybe drugs to help a person get through the day. Maybe FIRE should start a list of Hot House Colleges for Emotional Wimps “where never is heard a discouraging word.”

  3. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    Anne R. Pierce: At NAS.org (National Association of Scholars), a featured article is100 Great Ideas for Higher Education. Here’s one of the ideas.  If reading about America’s founding were a routine (should it be required?) part of American education, I believe college students would be objecting, in much greater numbers,  to unconstitutional restrictions on speech.

    American history, civics, anything that gave students a clue about not only what our system is but why it has succeeded so well. That being said, in the hands of modern profs who knows what those courses would end up looking like!

    I also had a piece in that NAS pub, btw, http://thefire.org/article/15445.html

    In it I conclude:

    If we could succeed in teaching students the value of actively pursuing intelligent debate with thinkers who do not share their current views, we might begin to reverse the calcification of ideas on campus, and even elevate the tedious national discourse to which we have all become accustomed.

  4. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    10 cents: In thinking about college campuses I shake my head and say, “Why, why, why?”  I have come up with an answer. I think it is the rise of psychology. It used to be “Sticks and stones will break my bones. but words will never hurt me.” Now a hint of harsh words will cause deep emotional pain which will need counseling and maybe drugs to help a person get through the day. Maybe FIRE should start a list of Hot House Colleges for Emotional Wimps “where never is heard a discouraging word.” · 16 hours ago

    The demise of “sticks & stones” is something I badly want to write about. I hope I will find a chance to do so. But your thinking seems very much in line with Wendy Kaminers take on what has gone wrong. She, in part, blames Oprah & the therapeutic culture. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57zXDpyeamg&list=UUC4leKu2BwJZpv9jaUXpC4w&index=2

  5. Barkha Herman

    Thought you might be interested in this (even though I suspect you’ve already seen it).

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In