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When I published my first book, Unlearning Liberty, in 2012, I felt optimistic that the situation for free speech on campus, though not good by any means, was improving. A lot of the campus censorship efforts had become less ideological and more of the old-fashioned, “Don’t you dare criticize my university” type of censorship. Even the scourge of campus speech codes seemed to be eroding—albeit very slowly in the face of Herculean efforts.
Still, I knew from experience that things could turn around—and, sadly, turn around they have. In the last two years, the intense political correctness of the late 1980s and early ’90s has returned with a vengeance, and we are now experiencing the wrong kind of renaissance.
Yesterday, I examined the contributing forces to this “renaissance” in my latest essay on Minding the Campus. As I write in the piece:
The first sign that things were about to get much worse came from the Department of Education when it issued its famous “blueprint” for harassment policies in a settlement with the University of Montana in 2013. In that agreement—proclaimed by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault”—the agencies defined harassment in a way that would be laughed out of court if challenged.
And the blueprint is not the only contributing factor to the campus censorship renaissance. As I argue in my latest book, Freedom From Speech, students are increasingly demanding freedom from speech they dislike rather than freedom of speech:
Perhaps we’ve reached a kind of critical mass of students raised to believe not only that they have a “right not to be offended,” but also that “safety” means not a lack of danger, but rather something more like perfect emotional comfort—or even the right not to be exposed to words or ideas that upset you.
Head over to Minding the Campus to read my whole essay on the resurgence of campus speech-policing and then let me know what you think.