Lately, I’ve seen a few encouraging stories about a shifting perspective about free speech on university campuses. Some of the shifts are unhelpful, but others suggest that the leadership of universities is finally recognizing the significant role their institutions can play in supporting and perpetuating free speech.
At first glance, some stories are not positive. A few universities are trying to charge a “security fee” to groups who are inviting what the university defines as “controversial speakers.” Needless to say, the administrators are the very ones who decide that a given speaker is controversial, immediately suggesting that trouble will be brewing before and during a presentation. The University of Alabama imposed a fee of $7,000 on the College Republicans chapter that was hosting Milo Yiannopoulos in 2016. Just before the event, the university revoked the fee with the statement, “the University of Alabama supports free speech and welcomes diverse speakers to our campus. As with all speakers, the views of Mr. Yiannopoulos do not necessarily reflect the views of the University.” It was a wise choice since the chapter could not afford the fee and would have had to cancel the event.More