UC-Berkeley this week canceled an April 27 Ann Coulter speech, fearing riots….
Masked, rock-throwing thugs prevented a February speech by Milo Yiannopoulos….
Berkeley’s move follows the Black Lives Matter disruption of a UCLA speech by the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, and efforts to muzzle her the next night at Claremont-Pomona College….
Last month, goons stopped American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray from delivering a moderately conservative talk at Middlebury College, with Professor Allison Stanger hospitalized by the violence.
Of course, only speakers on the political right are muzzled; the commandant of a North Korean gulag could probably speak unimpeded, as did Iran’s Ahmadinejad at Columbia a few years ago. And the excuse given by university officials is always the same: safety. Here, for instance, is Berkeley’s statement on nixing Coulter.
“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”
“Active security threats,” you say? And where might those threats be coming from? ISIS? North Korea? Why no, the threat of violence is coming from Berkeley’s own students and employees. So what the Berkeley Vice Chancellors are saying is that they cannot maintain order among their own people. This is a huge admission of failure on the part of the university administration.
The primary mission of the university is to maintain an environment of free intellectual inquiry. But instead of fulfilling that mission, the university administrators prefer to run their institutions as left-wing indoctrination camps. The administrators probably have it within their power to maintain order. The universities (scandalously) even have their own armed police forces. They could arrest, and subsequently suspend or expel students who engage in disorderly conduct. As Thomas Lifson points out,
There are plenty of law enforcement resources available to the University of California if it wished to preserve the tradition of open inquiry upon which the many public (i.e., taxpayer) subsidies and privileges available to U.C. are premised. When Governor Ronald Reagan faced a campus insurrection at Berkeley, he called in the National Guard and tear-gassed the protesters in Sproul Plaza – the very place the anti-Milo rioters used to destroy property and threaten lives.
If they took action, Berkeley officials could insure freedom of speech and assembly. But they choose not to. They willingly allow the Heckler’s Veto to censor speech, because they agree with the hecklers.
Unless these universities restore free speech and inquiry, they are not worthy of continued support from the public. Maybe a few lefties are willing to pay tuition and taxes to support far-left camps posing as institutions of intellectual inquiry, but most people are not. It is high time that taxpayers and their elected representatives insist that universities clean up their act. When administrators like Berkeley’s Scott Biddy and Stephen Sutton claim that they cannot allow speech–because safety–the state legislature should respond by asking for their resignations. Or as the New York Post put it,
Increasingly, US campuses are the exact opposite of the bastions of free thought and debate they’re supposed to be. If the schools can’t save themselves, society has every right to demand new management.
Not only should people lose their jobs, but the civil rights division of the Justice Department would be justified in launching a criminal investigation, particularly in the case of Berkeley. Many of these schools including Berkeley are state-run institutions, which means they must abide by the First Amendment. Back in February, Berkeley city and university officials let rioters run wild, making no arrests, even though they were beating people and causing over $500,000 in damages.
Moreover, complicity in violence and intimidation that prevents people from exercising their Constitutional rights is a crime under 18 U.S. Code § 241.
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years…
Every time campus leftists organize to use intimidation to shut down conservative speakers, they haven’t just been rude or unsporting, they have committed a federal crime. It is a crime, and long overdue that the Justice Department start treating it as such.
I also agree with Professor Glenn Reynolds that President Trump would be justified in sending in the National Guard to protect campus speakers, as Eisenhower did in Little Rock to allow black students to safely attend high school. Both cases involve not just public safety, but also an essential issue of Civil Rights.