Academia as a bastion of free speech?

I was not aware how many of these cancellations have been piling up:

Haverford College on Tuesday joined a growing list of schools to lose commencement speakers to protests from the left, when Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, withdrew from this weekend’s event.

Some students and faculty members at Haverford, a liberal arts college near Philadelphia, objected to the invitation to Mr. Birgeneau to speak and receive an honorary degree because, under him, the University of California police used batons to break up an Occupy protest in 2011. He first stated his support for the police, and then a few days later, saying that he was disturbed by videos of the confrontation, ordered an investigation.

Those at Haverford who objected to his being honored asked Mr. Birgeneau to apologize and to meet a list of demands, including leading an effort to train campus security forces in handling protests better; he refused.

Mr. Birgeneau bowed out a day after Smith College said that Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, had withdrawn from its commencement because of protests. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, said this month she would not deliver the address at Rutgers University after the invitation drew objections. Last month, Brandeis University rescinded an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist, over her criticism of Islam.

The story is here.  I have nothing to add to the obvious points here, but this is nonetheless worth emphasizing.


I'm left wing on a large number of topics, and I think Cowen is to economics what Dr. Seuss is to literature, but I think this hyperbolic, emotion-driven protesting to silent dissenting voices isn't just wrong--it's evil.

Personally, I want Cowen to speak to as big of an audience as possible--the more people pay attention to him, the faster the fantasy of Austrian economics will die.

....really? I hope I'm misunderstanding you, but are you really arguing that students who protest people like Condoleeza Rice are "evil"? Since when are we casting elites who lied the United States into yet another bloody military invasion as "dissenting voices"? This is a laughably bizarre view on who is powerful in this world, and who is not.

People like Condi deserve far worse than being scorned from speaking to a bunch of yuppies at their graduation.

I think he's on your side.

ince when are we casting elites who lied the United States

The elites manage to lie less often than the gauchiste opposition. Alas, it's the latter who control the arts and science faculty and the academic administration.

Gotta go with Michael on this one. He didn't say protesting was evil, but that demanding they not be permitted to speak is, and he's right. If you think elites lying the US into another bloody invasion is a bad thing, it's best not to drive them underground. The laughably (and dangerously) bizarre view is that people who disagree with you must be silenced.

"The laughably (and dangerously) bizarre view is that people who disagree with you must be silenced."

To be fair, I do appreciate that, overall, the right wing does less to silence the opposition than the left wing. They're still wrong about economics, however.

Even if right wing does less to silence opposition it's because it's losing cultural war and has less power. But when they feel that they have power they are happy not to silence but to kill the opposition like they did it in Uganda.

Quite haphazard use of terminology when 'the right wing' includes African politicians in a very dissimilar culture and society.

Pretty sure she is Dutch more than African although I think she immigrated as a child but is almost certainly a Dutch politician.

Not African politician but American right wing christian missionaries. It was their idea and their money. African politician were just a puppets.

You're talking rot.

You may want to google Scott Lively

While I think the "demands" are absurd, they don't equal being silenced. The speaker could have agreed to them - maybe even willingly.

That's not saying I agree with either the tactics or the strange views of what may be a small group of students.

Really? I guess then you'll be protesting every time Hillary, Kerry, Reid, Pelosi and all the other top Democrats who were stridently for the war in Iraq before they were against it. Unless of course, you feel they were just so stupid that they could be brainwashed by the even more stupid Bush.

And if lying to the American people is your criteria for the evil that should not be able to speak on your precious podia, it follows then that you will ban the winner of the Politifact "Lie of the Year" award, none other than the Holy LightBringer himself, the Prevaricator-in-Chief, Barack Milhouse Obama, Right? Right? (crickets)

Funny how the ideology that brought us over 100 million executions, deliberate starvations, disappearances and the Gulags for the heinous crime of disagreeing with their Marxist masters can get all huffy about "evil" people, whose major transgression is also just disagreeing with you. I note that leftists are never, ever forced to withdraw from speaking at universities, those faux bastions of open inquiry and the search for knowledge.

Orwell only got two things wrong - the year, and the melanin content of Big Bro'.

Oh good, now we have a right wing mulp here, exiled from volokh

"People like Condi deserve far worse than being scorned from speaking to a bunch of yuppies at their graduation.."

That blows right past the point, doesn't it? The point is not about punishing Condoleeza Rice in some fit of adolescent rebellion with empty gestures like disinviting her to speak somewhere, it's about students cutting off their noses to spite their face. It's about students seeing a university as some kind of entertainment venue where every experience has to suit their consumerist preferences rather than a place where you are constantly challenged, even emotionally. It's the Bubble Boy syndrome on a cultural level.

This is sanctimonious Red Guardism, and if yoyu don't find that evil, that says something about you.

What exactly is sanctimonious Red Guardism?

Not paying some celebrity with a controversial track record five or six figures to give a speech?

You really think commencement speeches are supposed to be about "constantly challenging" students and not about giving the students "entertainment" that suits their "consumerist preferences"?

Are you fucking kidding me?

The sanctimonious Red Guardism comes from a bunch of ignorant young bigots who think that they have a right to prevent anyone hearing words that may not please them. Not just the right, but that they are morally superior people because they are willing to use threats of force to shut down opinions that they do not like.

Precisely why students should not be listened to on any subject at all.

They are now banning Christine Legarde? WTF?

I do like that reason though - An online petition signed by some 480 offended Smithies said the IMF is associated with "imperialistic and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide."

Bloom was right about the thugs who took over Cornell. Since then Universities have given up their fundamental core purpose - fostering a tolerant atmosphere of learning and debate where all opinions can be heard. They have become indoctrination mills.

>elites who lied the United States into yet another bloody military invasion

No doubt you include Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry -- all of whom voted for this invasion, yes?

In fact, Joe Biden is giving two commencement addresses this year (Delaware and South Carolina) and Kerry is speaking at Yale. Nancy Pelosi is slated at Berkeley, Al Gore at Princeton. Obama is scheduled at UC Irvine, Michelle Obama at Dillard, Chris Matthews at Ohio State and Deval Patrick at UMass Amherst.

No threats to silence any of them.

This shushing is a phenomenon of the left which, given the Red history of the last century, should display a lot more humility about its enthusiasm for speech codes.

That's an ideological blindness that is more pervasive on the left and you find it all over western Europe too. Here it is even stronger than in the US. And the University that have been open to very diverse and sometimes disgusting theories in the early 20. Centuries are pretty much close-minded today. Of course you only see that if you are different and a minority.

I think you totally misunderstood Michael.

what he says is "evil" is the fact that hyperbolic, emotion-driven protesting is being used as a form of censorship. instead of dialogue, this is temper tantrums and ultimatums.


You realize the recent financial crisis was predicted by 3 major groups:
1. Post-Keynesians
2. Austrians
3. Dean Baker


You do realize Austrians argued for the de-regulaton that caused the financial crisis, right?

No, because that's not the truth.

Just remember, it's Condi that lies.

Well, to be clear, that is the truth. But a lot of other people argued for the deregulation as well.

Lemmie guess, Glass-Steagallz!!1! (nevermind the housing bubble began 4 years before Gramm-Leach-Bliley was passed.)

That makes know... false.

And it wasn't deregulation. Shadow banking non regulation maybe, but likely not even that. And they are supposed to manage the money supply anyway

Not enough regulation in the most regulated industry ever was the cause? Really?

How about not enough exposure to market forces. Too big to fail is a regulatory issue.

Of course it's both, but libertarians have difficulties with synthetical understandings of phenomena, mostly because their beliefs rely on faith (and Koch underwriting) and not on empirical analysis.

Number of regulations does not equal effective regulation. It does equal full employment for securities lawyers, which is popular inside the beltway, specifically at the SEC.

"Of course it’s both, but libertarians have difficulties with synthetical understandings of phenomena, mostly because their beliefs rely on faith (and Koch underwriting) and not on empirical analysis."

So, first you admit your starting accusation is wrong. Then you declare the other side are greedy idiots. Hmm, you won't be making my list of most thoughtful posters.

Michael, let's discuss anything you think I'll have trouble understanding.


Being the first to bring up Koch brothers in discussion rarely earns you the spot of most thoughtful posters.

"too big to fail" is a composite issue. it only exists because 1) regulatory capture by the banks of their regulators and 2) deregulation allowed the banks to engage in high risk behavior

funny how that works, right? regulation and deregulation are the reasons for the problem. you know what that indicates to me? viewing the problem as being related to regulation/deregulation is completely wrong. that's the wrong axis to analyze this on.

The crisis was caused mainly by the three Fs: the Fed, Fannie, and Freddie, all of which were (and are) opposed by the Austrians. De-regulation had nothing to do with it.

Did you even read about the financial crisis that started it? About how Mae and Mac were used to issue loans that should not have been issued while greedy people jumped on the band wagon that the government provided?

What's the over-under line on much money Dean Baker made off being more right than most economists about the main events of the last decade?

I'd guess maybe $50,000?

But what did he risk?

He should be given the keys to a hedge fund, or at least an honorary title.

You realize that 20 of last 2 crises were predicted by Austrians?

I'm not sure the Cowen : economics :: Dr. Seuss : literature analogy is very precise. But I suppose precision wasn't your goal. I do take exception to your using Dr. Seuss as an insult to literature, though. Dr. Seuss introduced me, along with tens if not hundreds of millions of others, to reading. He sparked a lifelong love of literature and a deep fascination with the beauty and mechanics of language. Without Suess I would probably never have known Pope, Waugh, and other favorites.
Given the sterile, esoteric, off-putting reputation the entire field of economics has, it would be a tremendous compliment to Cowen if he was, in fact, the Dr. Seuss of economics. To introduce whole generations of puerile economic minds to more sophisticated economic thinkers would be a service of inestimable value, and one that is sadly absent in today's marketplace of thought.

I have young children so am (re)reading lots of dr seuss. I concur- it is brilliant on a number of levels.

Extra confirmation comes from being forced to read the "seuss-like" concoctions created after his death and sold to unsuspecting aunts and uncles. Ugh. What seems simple to do is usually anything but.

I wonder if it has to be first read at an young age. I was introduced to dr seuss at ~25 years of age & could never really get the appeal of those books to adults. I wonder if any others have tried them post adulthood?

Are they just lamer without the accompanying nostalgic triggers?

Perhaps you'd like them better if you read them in a house. With an accompanying mouse.

In a box, with a fox? On a boat, with a goat?

I read a couple Dr. Seuss books in adulthood that I hadn't read when I was young (The Butter Battle Book and Sneetches on the Beaches). I still found them delightful. I can't explain why, but I found the rhyming of 'stars' with 'thars' remarkably fascinating. This might say more about my feebleness than Seuss's genius, though.

"could never really get the appeal of those books to adults."

I think a large part of the appeal is reading them out loud to an audience of children. I don't think you can capture the spirit of the books otherwise.

While you're right that Cowen lacks Seuss's talent, both authors have one thing in common: their work is best left to children.

In your haste to give Cowen a "sick burn", you once again showed a level of reading comprehension below the median poster on this site. Perhaps some remedial Seuss would help you.

You're a mean one, Mr. (Michael) Grinch...

Seuss sometimes sneaks in some political commentary. In the book Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are there is a story of a town that has a bee-watcher to keep his eyes on the lazy town bee. But the bee-watcher is judged to be lazy, so what's needed is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher. The result:
And today al the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher who's watching that bee.
You're not a Hawtch-Watcher. You're lucky, you see!

See how that works...the concept of regulatory capture, among many others, introduced to a child in a comprehensible form, 17 years before their first economics class. Seuss was the first author I had to keep re-reading to get the real meaning, and drat... had read that again.

Sneaks in some political commentary? He's political through and through! The Lorax is environmentalism, the Butter Battle is the arms race, etc. You can also check out Theodore Geisel's World War II editorial cartoons: the art style is quite Seussian and he nailed the Hitler menace long before many other Americans. Shame about his "fifth-column" Japanese cartoons, though.

Um, you must not read this blog much. Cowen isn't an Austrian.

I was going to say that too but after 7 years I still can't really tell. I think it is true in the strictest sense.

I don't think that matters to him, in a handful of posts he's brought up "Austrian", "Koch brothers", and "De-regulation" and then still feels the need to specify that he's left-wing on a number of issues. Provoking thoughtful discussion is not his goal.

the way these are supposed to work - the activist groups protest, the university ignores them and posts more security at the event, and the speech goes ahead anyway - everyone walks away with a gain, including the activist group, which gets to grouse about The Man keeping them down when recruiting from the next cohort of students

I'm not sure why the equilibrium has suddenly shifted, or if it's really clear that the equilibrium has shifted in the interest of the activist groups

Rather than criticize academia on free speech I'd say the moral of the story is that we've a sudden spike in sissy speakers?

There's always some group that objects. Since when did speakers become so thin skinned? Except for the Brandeis case I see no official cancellation of invites? Back in the day I remember Condoleezza as pretty shameless & brash. What's with this new-found delicacy?

Everyone is afraid of being the next trending post on facebook or twitter from a single impolitic quote from a nonconforming speaker.

To my understanding, it is usually the University who backs off no?

This seems correct. Reads like a bunch of thin-skinned universities and/or potential commencement speakers. Must be an election coming up.

alternatively, the universities are choosing more speakers that unwittingly provoke the hobbyhorses of their faculty. the president and faculty chairs walking in too-different social circles, perhaps

david, good point. Maybe the shift is from the booming expense of security across all sectors.

The obvious solution is to stop awarding honorary degrees, and confine commencement speakers to faculty of the institution awarding the degrees.

I'm serious. What's supposed to be the point of awarding an honorary degree? It does amount to an endorsement of the recipient, and why would a university want to officially endorse someone who is either (a) controversial, or (b) not controversial, and hence very likely boring?

Surely university administrators have better things to devote their time to (or if not, there are too many of them).

garnering support amongst the wealthy, connected, or both, in order to build political capital for conversion into endowment capital, or for fending off the frequent town-vs-gown disputes

Not all do. They probably get just as many protests from the guest speakers.

Correct, there are other events that can bring controversial speakers. Though I would also agree that the value of commencement speakers is not obvious to me either.

I think this is pretty funny. College students have protested and boycotted speakers for generations. Only now the speakers are starting to pull out. Why the attitude shift.

And for professor Cowen to suggest that people practicing their constitutional rights of assembly is somehow ruining free speech reinforces the idea that for conservatives, speech is only free for points of view to which they agree.

I'm not very convinced that he's insinuating that. The NYT article is pretty straightforward, and his comments offered nothing except that this is notable, although I don't think it's very notable, either.

Academia as a bastion of fee speech?

But then again Tyler loves to troll ambiguously. That is why he is better at it than Alex.

" reinforces the idea that for conservatives, speech is only free for points of view to which they agree."

It's a joke, right?

It is The Opposite Rule of Liberalism. Take whatever they say, figure out the opposite and you have a good approximation of reality. It's a form of projection. Since their cult is driven by self-loathing, they naturally project the things they despise about themselves onto the bogeymen of the day.

So I just assume @Z is a Liberal & then the whole world starts making sense! :)


Wait, he's not?

Not much of a reader are you:

Moonbat at logic never ceases to amaze.

Trolls trying to write coherent sentences never ceases to amaze me.

"It’s a joke, right?"

It does appear to be in contradiction with reality.

In no way is anyone's freedom of speech being violated. Institutions are not required to create platforms for others speak.

"In no way is anyone’s freedom of speech being violated ."

Agreed, and the morons who are protesting deserve the thought bubble they demand.

Their free speach isn't, but the spirit of open debate and dialog, which in a sane culture universities are supposed to encourage, certainly is.

I don't believe a lot of people are saying anything illegal is going on, just ideologically inconsistent or hypocritical perhaps.

ORLY? There were several dozen cases of commencement speakers who were forced to withdraw in the last few years. How many were shut down by the left? How many were shut down from the right? Can you give an example of the latter?

Well, I don't know about commencement speakers, but there's the tenured professor in Kansas who almost lost his job because he was being mean to the NRA. And now the Board of Regents is trying to formalize their right to dismiss faculty for saying stuff like that. Seems more problematic than not giving people honorary degrees.

I think wishing for the mass murder of various people's children would get pretty much anyone's commencement address invitation revoked in a hurry.

Oddly, actually committing mass murder against various people's children doesn't always get one's commencement address invitation revoked. Nor does hosting such a speaker get the state legislature to threaten to revoke funding.

I will answer your questions sequentially:
1. I don't know or care. Do you?
2. I don't know or care. Do you?
3. Yes.

hmm. My challenge was to the original poster who claimed that conservatives don't view free speech as a right for anyone but themselves, weird, since basically *all* of the campus shut-downs have been done by the left. Anyway, you did provide an answer to my 3rd question-- unfortunately, it was incorrect. You get partial credit for the fact that indeed, several protestors rudely interrupted him. However, there's no evidence they launched a program to revoke his invitation. Most importantly: it wasn't even a commencement speech-- the original topic and a key point of my question.

Well, of course the student-led shutdowns will be more often against rightwing than leftwing speakers since students tend to be overwhelmingly leftwing. I don't think this reveals that the left or right is generally more hostile to the opposition given the sample bias.

The truly conservative colleges don't even let you attend if you don't sign the appropriate purity pledges and would never deign to invite or hire anyone on the left to speak or teach at their campuses. They tout their bans on things like Marxism, feminism, and post-modernism as a point of pride.

My word, giving students the chance to express their views on those we select for them as the administration...tut, tut, tut.

Avoidable problem, though, if you involve students in the speaker selection process initially, but that would be too difficult...or would it.

A better solution is to expel the children making a nuisance of themselves. The nuisance segment is costing us enough as it is. Time to draw the line.

Expel with or without the fees they bring?

Yes. The best solution to protect the free speech is to expel students who don't agree with honorable speakers.

Nice strawman you have there. These students don't just not agree, they want to silence the speakers they don't agree with to prevent others (they wouldn't attend these speeches anyway) from hearing them.

So you believe that students have right to their opinions just not to the opinion that they do not want particular person to give commencement speech?

This happens at all University speeches, not just commencements. I'm more sympathetic to protests for commencements since you only get one and there aren't any alternatives, though I'd like to see the protests not so one-sided when it comes to the political spectrum (i.e. Rice is evil but Biden/Hillary get the red carpet even though they voted for the same thing).

These protests silence largely right-leaning speakers at other events too, events they're highly unlikely to attend anyway, just the fact of having someone so vile in their eyes as to disagree with them, even on their campus, offends them.

So expressing their views means not allowing any impure speakers?

Force it down their throats, particularly if the speaker contributes big bucks to the school, that's what I say.

You should never involve students in the selection process is what I hear you saying, pure or impure.

Stephen, The other question you have to ask is: Whose speech is being impinged? One view is that its the Administrations speech that is being curtailed, but is that the right person to be making the choice? If students had a say--that is, were given speech rights in the selection of a speaker--and some small group objected having had a chance to speak and participate in the selection process, that is a different matter.

Impurity is in the nose of the beholder.

You'd have to get a ton to get every variety of nut who could potentially whip up resentment involved with the process and then liberally hand out vetos.

If you set up the game to fail, it will. In order to give students the right to select commencement speakers, you do not have to hand out vetoes to a vocal minority.
Ask yourself: who is the minority if you do not give students a voice: the Administration or the students.

Hey, it's your game. I'm pointing out that any way you set the rules, you'll fail. You'll not be inclusive enough and run into these situations or inclusive enough that everyone can get vetoed.

I think you can always have a small minority that participates and opposes. But they will not have a following that would defeat the majority selection. So, it pays to involve the students initially.

Doesn't the "honorary degree" change the calculus here? Academia should have a culture in which you accept that people you disagree with will be invited to speak, but I don't see why anyone should be expected to support giving an honorary degree to someone they think is repulsive.

I agree with Mr. Neal that "honorary degrees" are an abomination anyway. America should do it the old-fashioned way, and sell peerages instead. At least if Birgeneau was made first Lord Birgeneau of Baton, it wouldn't purport to be an academic credential.

Well, at its basic level, free speech means ability to speak without coercion or threat of violence. That is--the college has the duty to intervene in cases of hate speech or calls to violence. Barring those extremes, however, groups *should* have the ability to discriminate as to who represents them at their commencement speech. This discrimination can validly include nonviolent protest. Part of the free exchange of ideas that occurs at the university means that all assertions are subject to push back. To me these cancellations are a sign of healthy dialogue and a vibrant student body, not some sinister violation of free speech.

Its not a violation of free speech, but it is likely a loud minority trying to act as thought police and drown out opposing or unpopular views.

none of this campus activity reaches anything of the level of the 60s, though, and we know how they collapse - the coalition seeking to police thought turns on itself, expelling the most moderate members until it is too radical and too few in number to sustain itself. So the arc can be foreseen, I think. But I still don't see what initiated it this time.

"To me these cancellations are a sign of healthy dialogue and a vibrant student body, not some sinister violation of free speech. "

But more than anything, they are a sign of the intolerance of many left wings. The sign of people not in any way interested in dialogue.

How can anything be a sign of dialogue, when the goal is to prevent someone from speaking.

Tolerance does not mean to accept all opinions uncritically, that would be relativism. Tolerance means to conduct arguments through persuasion rather than coercion. Peaceful protest is the group's pushback against an unpopular idea.

How can you persuade if you're not allowed to speak? How can you be persuaded if you don't hear opposing views?

In general, I think you are right--it's bad policy to refuse to hear opposing views. In the particular, I don't think that is what is going on here. Commencement speakers are chosen because of their prominence in society--they have many opportunities and platforms from which to speak, and there are multiple opportunities for the student body to have heard the potential speaker's views.

Actually if you don't want to hear the speech you can just not attend no? Or is it compulsory?

@ Chris Siems

The people protesting are unlikely to attend the speeches they're protesting. They wish to silence the speakers so others aren't able to hear views they don't agree with. Its intolerance, period.

I fail to see how protesting certain speakers and raising a fuss until their speeches are cancelled represents "healthy dialogue." This prevents dialogue. It's an announcement of refusal to engage in dialogue. I don't find that sinister; merely self-righteous and at least in thise case, juvenile.

What were this guy's alleged crimes, exactly? He kicked out some Occupy-types who were disturbing the peace on campus, I gather? Not exactly David Duke, right?

Refusal to engage in dialogue? How is there any dialogue at a commencement speech anyways? Are we allowed to ask questions? Ok, maybe the booing counts.

Dialogue between students, faculty, etc. It's one thing to point out the faults of the speaker in advance to raise awareness and start a dialogue. It goes a little overboard to jump immediately to trying to revoke the speaking invitation.

More than dialogue I think choice of commencement speaker has signalling value. Especially if you throw in honorary degrees as well.

They don't just protest commencement speeches.

Mr. Birgeneau was the chancellor in charge when campus security decided to douse seated protesters in pepper spray rather than haul them away peacefully. Regardless of politics, it was an improper response, and the guy in charge should be held accountable. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask him to apologize and to better train his employees to prevent this episode in the future.

Does your accountability for those in charge extend to all areas?

Not sure I catch your meaning. Can you clarify your question a bit?

What a world that would be.

I don't think that's unreasonable, either, but notice that the protesters aren't asking. They're saying "we don't want you here until you meet our list of demands which go well beyond simple apologies." Furthermore, UC got a lot of bad publicity out of that incident. Are we sure the guy hasn't apologized already? I would imagine he has. Note also that he is no longer Chancellor, so asking him to better train his employees is a bit meaningless because he doesn't have any employees to train anymore.

I think this op-ed sums it up nicely. Good luck in the real world when you can't shout down opposing opinions.

So your claim here is that in the "real world" people don't shout down opposing viewpoints?

Gee, you left out the protest of a Satanic Mass at Harvard that was hounded off campus.

Why I'm sure Pat Robertson's university would welcome those who wished to exercise their free speech rights.

Especially as this Satanic Mass has origins in opposing the inquisition.

Except that nobody can much agree on the historical nature or content of such an event, if they were ever held at all prior to 1900; which makes the entire exercise a petty farce, at best.

A petty farce? Sounds like the sacrament.

The satanic mass wasn't serious, and satanism isn't a serious religion, it's one gigantic exercise in trolling. If it had been an Islamic speaker or something you'd have a point, but it wasn't, so you don't.

All religious are inherently unserious. There's no difference between the joke and the con.

Even at its best, the guiding principle of academic has always been peer review rather than free speech.

1) Academic Free Speech: consider this.

2) Anyway, the opposite of diversity is university.

3) I had a vote once in a referendum on whether my employer should award an honorary degree to Derrida. Unfortunately the Enlightenment lost and the twerp got his degree.

I remember that episode, Dearime (re 3). A sad time.

Robin Hanson should blog on this soon

I agree with TC on this one. Students using their first amendment right to protest on campuses is proof that universities remain bastions of free speech.

As for the speakers, maybe they should show some grit in the face of criticism?

For the 30K+ that they get paid, they should be willing to dodge a few shoes.

They can have all the free speech they want without changing or disrupting the commencement program.

I agree about the grit, but none of us know what private concerns there are. Escalating costs for security can easily make a $25,000 speech into a $250,000 speech. And a mishap with police can become a $2.5 million speech.

The protestors are terrorists, and they are winning.

Where was the disruption? Potential disruption?

Totally agree with this sentiment - all public officials need to seriously protect themselves if there is a threat of an unfriendly crowd. All those whose peaceful speech conflicts with my ideology should be classified as terrorists, in case they are able to accomplish their goals.

I think the best way to handle these terrorists (how I love that word) would be to have a preliminary response in place. Like in Chicago in 1968, or the Alabama state troopers in Selma.

Well terrorists for sure. Unless the protesters are tea partiers. Then that'd be a legit protest.

Exactly - a celebration of both the 1st and 2nd amendments honors our founding fathers. Crazy liberals with their persecution complexes, why can't they just get it?

I dont recall many stories of felony arrests at Tea Party gatherings, but they were more than common at Occupy events.

How large do you suppose the intersection is between Occupy protestors and these speech protestors?

Leftists are violent thugs. They came to Chicago intending to cause violence. The segregationists were the terrorists.


Do you recall many felony arrests at recent commencements?

Terrorists. Really. You're pathetic.

Traitors, terrorists, and thugs. Enemies of peace, justice, and truth.

Their basic premise that Rice "lied us into war" is hokum. The Occupy protests showed us everything we need to know about these dirtbags.

You're a bootlicking little turd. Keep the bullshit coming.

Do we really know that this is a growing trend? I can remember protests against speakers at the University of Texas twenty years ago. The protests were generally framed as "Why should UT pay (some ex-politician or secretary of state) $25,000 to give a speech?". I tended to agree with that line of argument. Aren't the students stakeholders and has a speech at a college campus ever really been worth $25K?

Perhaps there is a bubble in university speeches and the students are behaving like short-sellers, trying to prick it until it bursts.

I also don't think there is any sort of growing trend in the student protests. Heck, there's probably less now than there were a half-century ago. The thing that is changing is that the schools and speakers are now caving to the protestors. Whether you view that as weakness or as a sign that the community's voice is being acknowledged probably depends on how you feel about that particular issue/speaker/protest.

I guess the question of interest may be, "Why are cancellations, rescissions, etc. more common now?" I'm not sure, but one possibility is that the era of social media and viral stories has made it more difficult to marginalize and sweep away the dissidents.

Overall though, it's pretty tame stuff. It's not like there are riots and hostages and what not like there were 50 years ago.

They are more common now for the same reason terrorism is more common now: television.

Protests get air time.

I don't think any of these cases involves the state, so let's be clear that this isn't a 1st Amendment issue. (Fill in the blanks: "____ shall make no ____ ...abridging the freedom of speech...") The internet often gets confused about 1st Amendment guarantees when a duck hunter or league owner says something racist, or someone loses a TV gig by broadcasting something contrary to advertiser interests. Maybe this is one of the obvious points to which TC has nothing to add.

As for the principle of free speech, especially in academia: rhetoric is persuasion. Commencement speeches are rhetorical occasions, and particularly lopsided in that a viewpoint is given money, honors, and a courteous hearing without rebuttal. Why would anyone want to elevate an odious speaker or viewpoint in this way? Even just a little odious? By that point, the debate is over before it has begun and the check has already been cashed. It seems like the speech described in the article is more free and open than a commencement speech. Maybe this point is obvious too. (Also obvious: Christine Lagarde is not odious.)

This is a pretty weak argument. Quite clearly, no one's First Amendment rights were violated. There is no legal cause of action here. So what?

Is the idea that free speech (broadly defined) is some unfortunate legal relic that we grudgingly accept only if and when the First Amendment requires us to do so? Maybe the answer to that question is "yes," but you have to make a better argument than "technically, the First Amendment does not apply."

Actually, if it's a public university, it can be a First Amendment violation if someone isn't permitted to speak. If the speaker bows out on their own, though, they are basically agreeing to it.

How many students have to find a speaker odious before they're not allowed to speak? One? Ten? One hundred?

Great question.

Another question is how the speakers got chosen in the first place. If it was a student committee, then representative government had its say.

Boycott your graduation and hold a competing event. Oh, but then you self-entitled little bitches think you were deprived of some "right" to sit through a ceremony where every speaker meets with your earnest approval, and to Hell with anyone who thinks otherwise.

How many students have to find a speaker odious before the speaker chickens out? Very few it'd seem.

Most likely the speaker doesn't want to catalyze a scene caused by a protester.

Rutgers is a state university.

What's the speech issue here? The students objected to the speakers (with the sole exception of Ali) because of the speakers' actions, not because of the speakers' speech. Had the students demanded that, say, Holocaust denier David Irving not be permitted to speak, then *that* would be a speech issue. There are plenty of examples of speakers not being allowed to speak on college campuses, many of whom aren't even Holocaust deniers. Why bring up these obvious non-issues?

Those other people--the one's who really are banned on the basis of their speech--aren't members of the elite in the way that commencement speakers and recipients of honorary ;degrees are. And that's what's really important, right, that our elites can give one another awards without being bothered by the opinions of the captive audience before them.

It is the implicit threat to disrupt the ceremony.

God forbid someone disrupt a ceremony.

Gos forbid someone disrupt your internet connection.

It would be unpleasant. And the disruptors don't risk much.

There's an easy solution: require the commencement speaker to pay for the beer.

In the UK they call it "no platform". At first it was meant to keep racist groups off campuses, but it has since expanded to include anyone who is e.g. pro-Israel or who harbors unpopular views on transgender issues. Who knows what opinion will be banned next:

you're a bit confused about the uk context

European antifas has always claimed the right to violently confront fascist and fascist-aligned groups, including physically wrestling speakers off podiums and smashing their furniture

but booing and heckling is normal for public political speeches in england

Better late than never I say.

They claim a 'right' to assault people and destroy their property? That's interesting.

This is not just a speech, it's a COMMENCEMENT SPEECH honoring something the students have been working towards for years.

If someone I don't agree with wants to give a speech then that's fine, but I don't want to be FORCED to listen to them for however long they want to talk just so I can get my diploma on a stage.

What a touching sentiment, I declare as a tear rolls down my cheek.

Too bad conservative and libertarian and non-political students have to spend FOUR YEARS or more having leftist dogma shoved down their throats, and their comprehension graded, in order to earn the sheepskin that they could just as easily have sent to them by mail.

The fact is that these protests are almost ALWAYS staged by leftists. They aren't respecting free speech or exercising free speech - they are suppressing it. It is the equivalent of a small minority demanding that the State of the Union address not be televised because...insert their whiny rant against the president.

Last time I checked, the strength of democracy and education came from diverse opinions, not the suppression of them.

Liberals love nothing more than the sound of their own voices.

With all the conservative complaints about universities being leftist I wonder why aren't there more contemporary right wing attempts at setting up their kind of universities? Surely, it's not the lack of funds?

You should indeed put more thought into this question.

Yes, thought is definitely what's lacking when it comes to conservatives in universities.

There are, but it takes a long, long time. For example, Chapman U. in Orange County has come a long way over the last 25 years ago from when it was the worst private college in California. It takes a dynamo college president who is constantly asking for money from local rich guys.

Why does it take so long? If you have money can't be that hard to hire faculty & build some classrooms?

Research etc. is anyways overrated according to conventional right wing wisdom so I bet we won't be wasting time on that stuff. Libertarians love MOOCs & online classes which makes things even easier.

Surely you don't mean that students are leery of such enterprises?

How terrible it is that college education correlates with intelligence and voting preference. I guess we can just blame the content of the education, knowledge, learning.

Do you call a PhD in Gender Studies, a Master of Social Work, or a D.Ed. an "education?"

I don't. They have a level of rigor barely higher than high school honors courses.

Since when does a degree demonstrate "intelligence?" I suppose you think John Kerry and George W. Bush are geniuses.

The common denominator of the things you mention is arrogance, not intelligence. The majority of college degrees granted are marginally worthless as anything but a signal of tenacity.

Assertion 1.) College education is excessively liberal.

Assertion 2.) Liberals hate diversity and free speech, because they always stage protests against establishment heavyweights.

Assertion 2a.) Condoleeza Rice and other establishment heavyweights are oppressed, and need special protections from themselves cancelling speaking events- so liberals can finally hear the truth.

Assertion 3.) Diverse opinions strengthen education and democracy. As long as they're not excessively liberal (see point 1).

Assertion 4.) Liberals love the sound of their own voices. Conservatives don't - evidence lying in their refusal to speak to a crowds that may be in disagreement with them.

Willitts histrionics in this thread are ridiculously telling. Clearly developed quite the victim complex while at university.

Your cartoonish straw men are quite telling.

1. College faculty are overwhelmingly liberal from decades of preferential treatment and political discrimination against anyone who strays from their orthodoxy.

2. Yes, liberals hate diversity of opinion, as evidenced by 1 (among other things).

2a. Condoleeza Rice is a well educated, highly distinguished leader which alone would make her a valued speaker at any event. Everyone needs protection from THUGS, especially when she is most hated by liberals because she is a black, female Republican.

3. Diverse opinions (supported by facts and strong arguments) strengthen education and democracy, PERIOD.

4. Liberals love nothing more than the sound of their own voices, as evidenced by the echo chambers they build for themselves. See 1.

You made the cartoonish straw man. I was just coloring it in for you.

Serious question - in your world view have you been terrorized? Should you never comment here again? I bet you didn't even receive an honorarium from MRU for your posts.

LOL. I worked for the Cook County State's Attorney office. Yeah, I've been terrorized. But that wasn't the worst part of the job.

Are you trying to tell me that Rice wasn't legitimately threatened by this 'protest?' If there were no security present, do you believe she wouldn't be assaulted by these protestors?

Intellectually, maybe. I find it very hard to believe she had a legitimate physical security concern from college students on the day of their commencement.

I'd be stunned if she does not have private or public personal security due to her leadership roles in the US government and her work at Chevron. I'd also be stunned if that commencement does not have a large police presence for traffic and crowd control.

I also think it's entirely irrelevant. These are 18-22 year olds. They're graduating, and nobody wants to get their robes dirty in front of grandma.

Last time I checked, the strength of democracy and education came from diverse opinions, not the suppression of them.

Actually, that's the weakness of democracy, certainly at the level of a place as huge and diverse as the United States. Democracy is for deciding how much money to allocate to certain things that everybody agrees should be in the public sphere. Existential, defining questions like what is marriage and who gets to be the Who in Who-Whom are not really up for a vote. You're just tallying up the firepower.

If you're holding votes on things like gay marriage and transfer payments rather than how much it costs to keep the roads repaired, your society is probably going to explode one day.

Actions have consequences.

Suggestion: make sure your underlings don't assault non-violent protesters, and try not to invade any countries based on, you know, lies and prevarications. Then maybe whine about free speech.

Is that your original line, or are you parroting some talking point?

I've heard almost word for word what you said for a decade or more, and there were political actors that were saying it. It is very easy in a partisan environment to label your opponent as evil, but what if they weren't? What if they were acting on the limited information that they had? Agree or disagree with the decisions, it is enlightening and worthwhile to hear what the people involved have to say. There were mistakes made, but that is a given.

Dogmatic and judgmental views are comfortable and well supported. Ultimately though, rather useless when it comes to dealing with reality. The 9/11 attack was interesting in how it caught almost everyone flatfooted. Everyone from the pacifist left to the defense establishment had nothing to offer when it came dealing with the situation. The only ones who had a well thought out position and course of action were the neocons, and their ideas were adopted. Not because they were right, but because they were the only ones who imagined what had actually occurred. The narrow silos of comfortable thought, unchallenged by realities up till then were incapable of coming up with anything rational to offer.

We are seeing a similar pattern emerging right now with a restive Russia, China setting up oil rigs within their neighbor's territorial limits, as well as the nasty north African developments. I'm amazed at the lengths to which these things are either denied, ignored or the subject changed, because it doesn't fit into some narrow world view. I suspect something similar to the neocon dynamic will again arise; someone will have thought these things through and present an answer. The only way to develop a well thought out view of these complicated issues is to be exposed, not only exposed but to study and understand the various viewpoints from people you disagree with. Maybe they see an angle that you don't, maybe have information that isn't circulated within your circle. Maybe they are wrong, and by demonstrating it you can hone your arguments and understanding. Neocons by definition were those who rejected one way of thinking and adopted another, so there was some thought behind it. It doesn't take any thinking to say what you said above.

So Biden and Hillary are also getting protested at their speeches right? They voted for it with the same information Condi had. Nope these students welcome them with open arms.

Protests, such as they are, over the selection of commencement speakers are first of all exhibitions of egotism by campus radicals that verify their credentials in their bizarre little milieu and maybe get their name in the local paper or even on television. Secondly, they are a ridiculously ineffective means of punishing the hated potential speaker for whatever it was they were supposed to have done. In the case of the Kansas high school commencement speech to be delivered Saturday by Mrs. Obama, the graduates and their parents objected to the probable lack of tickets for relatives to attend the event and the general distraction that her attendance would create on a day meant to celebrate the students' achievement. But she's speaking instead at a gathering at another location tomorrow.

Of course, giving commencement speeches is not an exhibition of egoism when the biens-pensants fonctionnaires deign to offer their services.

Ooh, Morticia, I love it when you speak French.

Do you get to object to

The commencement speaker at

Marginal Revolution University?

Who would be the commencement speaker anyway?

David Koch, I'd imagine.

Wow good one, did you come up with that yourself cause I've never heard that on this site.

1. It is commencement so administration should be smarter.
2. It is university so students should be more open.
3. Not wanting to hear someone is fine, but trying to keep others from hearing is kind of a free speech issue.

I would hope the ideal of free speech is broader than just what the government does, rather being about not stifling speech of any form. That doesn't seem to be a view held by the "it's not about free speech because it's a private institution" crow.

I agree that free speech ought to mean more than just a prohibition on government. It should include a cultural willingness to listen to people you disagree with. It is hard to turn that into a legal rule, but that's the nature of culture.

However, even as a cultural criticism, I am having a little trouble understanding what the problem is with people objecting to a commencement speaker/honorary-degree recipient. That is obviously a decision by an institution to honor someone, and give them a captive audience in a situation in which argument is not being encouraged. If you think the person shouldn't be honoured -- because they participated in lying the US into a war, or assaulting peaceful protesters -- than I fail to see what the problem is with asserting that view. If university administrators want to keep their commencement occasions uncontroversial and anodyne, then they will avoid honoring people who have a controversial record.

If some university decided to give Ward Churchill or Noam Chomsky an honorary degree, then of course the rightwing blogosphere would freak out. Of course risk averse university administrators would get nervous.

The problem for free speech in America is that people worry about losing their jobs because of controversial and non-work-related opinions. Libertarians and conservatives generally celebrate this, or at least don't care. That actually does not happen in universities (although it is certainly true that opinion counts in whether you get the job in the first place).

Well said.

An honorary degree is basically a way to share status. A famous person gains some prestige by being awarded an honorary degree by prestigious university. The university gains some prestige by being associated with famous person who came to receive an honorary degree. "Who do you want to affiliate with?" is a completely appropriate question to ask.

Commencement speeches have a similar dynamic, plus the purpose of giving the graduating class a meaningful experience at the close of their time in college. I am a fan of open-minded and free-spirited debate and listening to dissenting voices, but a commencement ceremony isn't really the appropriate venue for that. So being selective about commencement speakers doesn't seem problematic in the way in which it would be problematic to be similarly selective about who could speak in an intellectual debate.

A little Googling finds that Noam Chomsky does collect the occasional honorary degree, but more often abroad (St. Andrew's, American U. of Beirut) than at home (Swarthmore). Obviously, Chomsky is, whatever else you want to say about him, a great man.

Ralph Nader used to receive a lot of honorary degrees. It would be interesting to see if this Arab-American's lack of enthusiasm for Israel has cost him in recent years.

"lack of enthusiasm for Israel" is a rather anodyne way of describing Chomsky.

The man's most salient political statement was to go to bat for the Khmer Rouges in the pages of The Nation. In a decent society, people would be leery of him.

"If some university decided to give Ward Churchill or Noam Chomsky an honorary degree, then of course the rightwing blogosphere would freak out."

Chomsky routinely gets honorary degrees and gives commencement speeches:
Professor Chomsky has received honorary degrees from University of London, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, Delhi University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Amherst College, Cambridge University, University of Buenos Aires, McGill University, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Harvard University, University of Calcutta, and Universidad Nacional De Colombia

Furthermore, this has nothing to do with the blogosphere. It has to do with Left wing protestors on campus acting as thought police.

If some university decided to give Ward Churchill or Noam Chomsky an honorary degree, then of course the rightwing blogosphere would freak out. Of course risk averse university administrators would get nervous.

Yeah. And gee, think how the Right Wing would freak out if some universities decided to make a Communist and a terrorist like Bill Ayers a Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago? Or Bernadine Dorhn a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the immediate past Director of Northwestern's Children and Family Justice Center? Or someone like Michael Klonsky "the director of the Small Schools Workshop at the University of Illinois, Chicago" or a member of the "Academic Advisory Council of the National Campaign Against Youth Violence" as well as posts at UIC and the Fischler School of Education at Nova Southeastern University? Or appoint Mark Rudd as a lecturer at Central New Mexico Community College? Or appoint Susan Rosenberg at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which is part of CUNY and then at Hamilton College?

All of these people killed Americans remember. And wanted to bring the Gulag to North America.

Yeah, just think how outraged the Right would be about academia's love-in with murderers.

No argument here. Can you imagine what it will be like when the Right repudiate Cheney, Bush, David Addington, John Yoo, Rumsfeld, Michael Hayden, etc., etc., etc.?

All of these people conspired to start a war that killed Americans remember. And brought the panopticon to North America.

Pat Buchanan and others on the (for lack of a better term) paleo Right have been pointing this out for a long time. And if you really want to get both Tony Blair and George Bush supporters foaming at the mouth, read them a Pat Buchanan column.

I'm going to start telling people I'm 'fiscally liberal but socially conservative.' Want to guess what that gets me called?

You mean ACTUAL terrorists like Ayers and Dohrn as opposed to imaginary terrorists like Rice?

Yeah, there is a difference - a difference worth protesting. The conservative idea of protesting is expressing dissatisfaction. The liberal idea of protesting is starting a riot, destroying property, and threatening lives.

Sorry - I thought I was being explicit. 'No argument' is an agreement that the Weather Underground are criminals.

Condoleezza Rice is not a terrorist - a term you seem to love. She is however partially culpable for our entrance into the Iraq War, a bloody misadventure that has killed more American troops then were ever stationed on Fort Dix.

She also personally authorized the use of water boarding, a method of torture for which the United States government executed Japanese soldiers in the Tokyo war crimes trials.

Just to be explicit, again. Kids peacefully saying they don't want to give money and a platform to Condoleezza is not a terrorist act. Condoleezza withdrawing from a speaking engagement, voluntarily, is not the Red Dawn of the liberal plot to brainwash us with political correctness. It's just college kids using political demonstration to achieve a goal.

Not going to lie, Bill Ayers is probably loving it.

The Iraq War was among the least bloody wars relative to soldier-days served in our history -- perhaps among all of human history.

There is no question whatsoever that Iraq was in substantial noncompliance with UN resolutions it agreed to at the end of the Persian Gulf War. Democrats in Congress didn't even go so far as to accuse anyone of "lying." The terms they used were "misled" and "sexed up."

Funny how all this intelligence was available for members of Congress to view before they voted for the war, but they suddenly noticed it only after WMD wasn't found. At best they were idiots and at worst they were cowards.

As someone who actually taught Law of Land Warfare, I agree that waterboarding violates the law as inhumane treatment, although I wouldn't go so far as to call it torture. Most of the so-called harsh interrogation techniques were less harsh than the experience of a basic trainee in the Army.

As such, I welcome discussion about waterboarding. That has nothing to do with what Rice has to say.

As Orwell observed in his Notes on Nationalism, you appear to reserve all your criticism to the US and its allies to the point of indifference to the attrocities of our enemies. Im only surprised you didnt blame Abu Ghraib on Bush and Rice too.

These "kids" are adults, and they ought to learn to behave themselves like it instead of throwing temper tantrums. They werent peacefully protesting, they were making loud and angry threats. These were Occupiers doing the talking. I suppose you missed all the violence at the various OWS events.

Oh, please.

Iraq is a disaster zone, a failure in every respect, and it's a fact that the Bush administration lied to the American public to provoke a war.

Waterboarding is torture. Period. Legal fictions aside, you're simulating drowning to extract information. It's disgusting, and I'm ashamed of Guantanamo. I'm blown away that anybody can defend it. Our own government killed people for doing it to our troops. Our government at the time dropped nuclear bombs on two civilian targets, and even they wouldn't go as far as David Addington and Dick Cheney.

I criticize the United States because I'm a citizen of the United States, and we're supposed to be better than our enemies.

There's some perverse irony in quoting Orwell in the defense of the administration that constructed an illegal mass surveillance apparatus, created 'the department of homeland security', created its own room 101, and started the longest war in US history.

Not to heap blame on Bush alone. Obama is even worse since he should know better.

Why do you keep bringing up Occupy? The kids had a sit in and chanted cancel Condi. Somehow they're the terrorists? Poor Condi, however will she spread her message? She was only one of the most influential and powerful people on the planet in both industry and government. Boohoo.

Goodnight, it's been interesting engaging with you.

No one lied us into the Iraq War. Iraq is nowhere near as bad off as living under an evil dictator. I suppose you wish a guy like Tito had kept the Balkans unified. North Korea and Cuba are peaceful places, right?

I dont agree with everything we've done in the name of antiterrorism, including our growing police state, and I blame Bush for his part in it. But I also give the president and Congress some credit for knowing information I don't know. I prosecuted organized crime cases, and they were extremely sophisticated in their tradecraft and brutal in their intimidation. I give terrorists at least as much credit for their abilities and accept that we have to do deep surveillance.

Guantanamo is just a prison. Not everyone there was mistreated. Bush was absolutely correct to label thdm unlawful combatants who can be detained indefinitely.

Chanting? I call it childish foolishness.

Iraq is a disaster zone, a failure in every respect, and it’s a fact that the Bush administration lied to the American public to provoke a war.

Over 90% of the instances of violence are in four predominantly Sunni governorates and in two mixed governorates. There is very little violence where 60% of the population live, perhaps because the Sunni Arab and Kurd population do not foul their own nest.

If you're ignorant of a subject, keep quiet about it.

This is not really a free speach issue. Complaining that someone is being honored by an honorary degree or an invitation to give a commencement speach is not stifling anyone.

Would I complain about these? No. Would I say someone is not an accomplished person deserving of recognition because I don't like every decision or management statement they made? No. But students do have a right to peacefully protest an endorsement given by their school.

No one is questioning their right, just their methods, motives, and maturity.

It is easy enough to say that we all have a right to free speech, and that ease diminishes in the cacophany of angry shouting matches, especially when violence breaks out.

Not too long ago, a high school banned American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. The court ruled that the school's duty to ensure safety trumps free speech. I dont agree with that opinion since the threat of violence didnt come from flag wearers, but the decision would seem to apply here, albeit from a different circuit.

Free speech never meant saying anything, anywhere, anytime, to anybody.

Willits, drop the mic here, plz.

A lot of thinkers have been banned from polite society -- How many commencement addresses has Charles Murray delivered since The Bell Curve 20 years ago, much less Arthur Jensen since 1969? -- but now the witch-sniffing impulse is harming formerly respectable centrists, so it's suddenly news.

Googling, I find one commencement address by Pat Buchanan: at the Citadel military college in 1999.

I wonder how many honorary degrees Jimmy Carter has been granted since his "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" book a number of years ago?

Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Robert Gates are popular commencement speakers from the last administration. Cheney less so.

Perhaps the problem is that the current crop of Republican leadership has an intense anti-intellectual bias and provide cringe inducing soundbites at the barest provocation.

Gates stayed on in the Obama Administration, and Powell and Rice would seem to have something in common.

But, the fate of GOP officials is hardly the interesting question. I'm more interested in two questions.

- Can you get a lot of honors from American colleges if you are publicly unenthusiastic about Israel: Jimmy Carter (recently), Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Pat Buchanan, etc.

- Can you get a lot of honors from American colleges if you are publicly associated with crimethinking about diversity: James D. Watson (recently), Charles Murray, Pat Buchanan, Arthur Jensen, William Shockley, etc. Larry Summers would be an interesting test case since he's plugged into the Democrats, Wall Street, the Robert Rubin clique, Israel, and other things rich donors tend to like, but he got caught crimethinking about IQ in 2005.

Is there any database of honorary degrees and commencement addresses? You could weight colleges by the size of their endowments.

I'm not particularly swayed by your point. A cursory search of Bush cabinet officials shows that Paul O'Neill and Ashcroft are speaking at colleges this year. I didn't check Andy Card, figured he'd be kind of a bore.

Cherry picking speakers around particular issues is not very impressive to me. I think the problem is that many in the popular Republican establishment are anti-science (evolution and climate change, primarily), and respectable schools (along with institutions and companies) tend to be pretty socially progressive.

Many of the other speakers you name just aren't particularly well known. My hypothesis is that famous people in most fields tend to be socially progressive, and the Republican party has become so ideologically pure (and repugnant) that they alienate many people who find parts of their message to be very appealing (yours truly included).

You and others appear to be forgetting that commencement is also a celebration, not a political forum. Having a speaker that displeases or offends a large enough group of students sort of defeats this purpose.l

"Many of the other speakers you name just aren’t particularly well known."


Jimmy Carter (recently), Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Pat Buchanan, James D. Watson (since 2007), Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, William Shockley, Larry Summers (since 2005)?

You may have an exaggerated notion of how well-known commencement speakers tend to be.

n the popular Republican establishment are anti-science (evolution and climate change, primarily), and respectable schools (along with institutions and companies) tend to be pretty socially progressive

No, they're skeptical of arrogant office-politicking grant hustlers.

"Perhaps the problem is that the current crop of Republican leadership has an intense anti-intellectual bias and provide cringe inducing soundbites at the barest provocation."

So you're predicting that VP Joe Biden will get no invites to be a Commencement speaker? How much money would you like to bet on the outcome of that event? "A Bet is a Tax on Bullshit"

I'll bet you that Joe doesn't make an overtly racist, sexist, or other discriminatory faux pas before a leadership Republican does.

Our usual wager? 1 internet point?

Perhaps the problem is that the current crop of Republican leadership has an intense anti-intellectual bias

Or perhaps you're unable to do anything but caricature your opposition due to your emotional defects.

Commencement speeches and honorary degrees are irrelevant. They have little to do with discussion, deliberation, or discourse. If these people want to discuss their work in an academic setting, and face students and faculty as equal interlocutors in a workshop or panel at whatever IR center or Law/Government department is appropriate, and they can't do it, then we might have a problem with academic norms about free speech. Public contestation over matters of university ceremony don't have jack to do with the free speech rights, or free speech norms appropriate to, these elite functionaries.

If they're actually irrelevant then what's the fuss all about? In fact, aren't the protests giving these events relevance? There's the possibility that committees select these speakers knowing that it will be a controversy that gets their schools' name in the paper when their football team can't.

Yes, the fuss gives them relevance, because it allows students to express something publicly which they would normally not be able to. This upsets reactionaries like Willitts to no end.

"Normally not be able to"

Give me a freaking break!

So these little communists have all this pent up frustration desperately awaiting a conservative to ride into town in a limo so they can unleash their righteous indignation! Thank God the university invited Rice, otherwise their muddled heads would have exploded and left shit stains all over the hallowed halls.

Precisely. There is more discourse here than in a commencement address.

The commencement addresses come down to liberals thinking they own universities, and they don't tolerate cracks in their monolith.

Some fruitcake socialist at Berkeley literally wrote in his course description that conservatives were not invited to join the course. If you want to know what liberals think privately, catch them when they think they are among mostly allies. The ones that openly profess their hatred simply arent concerned with the consequences.

If I were a university president and a student committee chose Noam Chomskey, I'd welcome him with open arms and defend the students' choice. I'd tell disruptors, if there were any, that they didn't have to attend. The biggest lesson students learned from these events is how to be a coward, and I mean the University leadership, not the invited/disinvited speaker.

Perhaps the intolerant, censorious young activist mooks will usher in an age of uncensorable MOOCS (Massive Online Open Commencement Speeches).

Yes, in which case II have appointed myself to be the commencement speaker.

And, you can appoint yourself to be as well.

But, in either case, no one will listen or attend.

Statism (leftism) has always required censorship to gain any traction in the world.

Since censorship is extremely hard in the USA, demonization will have to suffice.

Do you know what would happen if the unwashed masses found out that conservatives were NOT driven by racism, and misogyny and xenophobia? It's too horrific to consider. Deny them platforms and slander away.

It's the only way to be sure.


1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual.

Where was the deep abiding concern when people protested James Franco giving a commencement speech at UCLA because they didn't want Jordan Catalano presiding over the event? What is the world coming to when mediocre actors are denied their free speech by students protesting one of their public appearances?

What about all those voiceless students who missed the wisdom Franco could have imparted? Don't they have a right to be spoken to by someone we assume they are at least indifferent to hearing from? The arrogant presumption to dictate what others will barely listen to and possibly doze off during is really too much. What business do university administrat... I mean students have deciding who will speak at a commencement?

First the activists will start rejecting commencement speakers because they find them trivial, next they'll reject them because they are bigots, liars, torturers, warmongers, or frauds. Heaven forfend! Don't prominent bigots, liars, torturers, warmongers and frauds have a right to be prominent, because they are already prominent? To rob someone prominent of their prominence and besmirch the eminence of someone eminent is the greatest injustice of all. Next thing you know they won't be invited on the Charlie Rose show or to the Aspen Ideas festival. Where will it end? Will their invites to Hardball be rescinded? The inhumanity!

How about you and the protestors just STFU and listen to the scheduled commencement address like the rest of us reactionaries did.

Freaking pansies can't tolerate an hour in the mere presence of an objectionable person much less endure the content of their address of which the content remains as yet unknown.

Your hysteria demonstrates your intolerance better than I could describe it.

The hysteric is the one raving about terrorists. What did you say during the Vietnam protests and the civil rights movement, dimwit? The communists are gonna get you! The Muslims are gonna take over the world! Obama's gonna steal your freedom!

The leaders of the antiwar movement during the Vietnam war were unabashed communists and sympathizers with our enemies. They should have been arrested and executed for treason. The vast majority of the rest were opposed to the draft, and as the draft drew down, the protests withered.

The civil rights protestors were heroes, fighting against widespread and intolerable injustice that not only violated our laws but the very principles on which this nation was founded. John Brown was my kind of terrorist!

The communists were gonna get us. In case you missed the Venona documents, let me sum it up for you: the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers,
Harry Dexter White, Salvador Allende were all Soviet spies or agents. The Soviet Union helped fund both the antiwar and civil rights movement.

There are a billion Muslims in the world, and while the vast majority of them are peaceful, events of the last half century have made it clear that we ought tobbeware of Muslim fundamentalism. But having said that, I dont recall saying the Muslims are gonna get me. What I did say was that in my professional opinion, water boarding violates the Law of War.

Obama has and will continue to steal our freedom. He is a statist who believes in fictional "positive rights.' He has no respect for the limitations our Constitution placed on government powers. Many policies I support as a matter of economic efficiency or morality are nevertheless beyond the power of our federal government.

You are a socialist, and your opinions are as offensive as they are dangerous. Nevertheless i would not ban them from universities.

For the sake of argument, do you see the difference?

Our commencement speaker was a student. It was rather underwhelming.

That is different from politically motivated, biased censorship.

Ummm, the anti Vietnam war leaders may gave been all you say. They were also right about the Vietnam war. Blind squirell finds nut perhaps.

Andrew, in what sense were the Vietnam protesters right about the Vietnam War? They called Ho and Pol Pot nationalists. They were not. They said it was an internal civil war. It was not. They said that the Viet Cong were Agrarian Socialists committed to peace. They were not.

On every single substantive issue, the Right was right about Vietnam and the anti-War movement wrong. Actually mostly lying as their leaders were Communists often paid by the Soviets or North Vietnamese so they knew what they were defending.

You're a paranoiac, fear-addled, violent little militarist shit, which is orders of magnitude more offensive than any of my alleged socialism.


I don't think they were right at all about Vietnam for all the reasons someone else said. It was a communist invasion. We stopped the spread of communism to Thailand and the Philippines. We won every major battle and walked away from victory.

Even at the end, all of Hanoi's air defenses were gone and their army was in Laos; we could have driven unopposed into Hanoi if we had the will to do so.

What were they right about? The outcome or the reasons for not fighting?

"To rob someone prominent of their prominence and besmirch the eminence of someone eminent is the greatest injustice of all."

hahaha! Amen, brother.

Left-wing activists aren't fully human and shouldn't be treated as such.

Don't tease me man.

More than 180 comments about commencement addresses.

Can we go back to discussing Piketty now?

Why do you think we are doing this?

Was that a question about the posts or Piketty? :)

For the posts, it is obviously Mood Affiliation.

As for Picketty, I was being facetious.

Are they against political speakers they agree with?

It is a simple question. Maybe a Condorcet voting system is called for. Certainly a seminar series is warranted. But a biased option on hooliganism is not admirable at a university.

There doesnt always exist a Condorcet Winner, and the information costs of discovering such a winner are huge.

Recall Arrow's Impossibility theorem and apply the fact that the most lunatic of these protestors would object to the most favorable of candidates. Rahul asked a legitimate question: what is the minimal number of protestors necessary above which you ratify a choice of commencement speaker?

Assholes like GiT think I would approve only of like-minded people. Quite to the contrary, I am tolerant of all but heinous criminals. There are even aggressors that I could tolerate at commencement, such as Vladimir Putin for example.

Believing that Rice is among the heinous criminals betrays their motive of radical censorship. GiT and C loathe America and love our enemies.

Why doesn't City Club of Chicago have these problems with controversial speakers? Mainly because, unlike universities, they are made up of adults.

Thanks @Willits! :) But maybe I was asking a slightly different question: what is the minimal number of protesters that causes these speakers to chicken out?

So, not a university policy question but a factual query about the degree of hate a speaker will stomach.

It appears that illiberality is well-represented among the MR commenters. In other words, if someone is wrong or a liar, it's fine to use whatever means necessary to prevent them from speaking.

This may surprise you but "preventing from giving a commencement address or being honored by an institution" is not isomorphic with "preventing from speaking."

So Tyler should just routinely delete your posts until you realize your time is better spent on Daily Kos or Hoocoodanode.

Tyler can moderate his blog however he wants. I don't care. If he wants it full of nothing other than violent little shits like you and racists like the Sailerite gang, he's free to do so,.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. recently canceled an address at the graduation ceremony of the Oklahoma City police academy after he was harassed by gun nuts and Republican elected officials — often a redundancy, I realize. Organizers called for officers in attendance to “place Holder in handcuffs.” Good lesson for the grads — arrest the nation’s highest law enforcement officer because you don’t share his politics. One Republican, an Oklahoma state senator, Paul Wesselhoft, cheered the strong-arm tactics. “This is a significant lesson in political activism,” he said. No, it’s a primer in how to be a bully.

Your point? Opponents of the AG planned to protest his appearance - they could not stop it and would have been barred from disrupting the ceremony. I suspect Mr. Holder was unwilling to allow additional attention to be drawn to his misadministration.

They also used a threat of physical violence.

But I do understand that they were RIGHT people and opposed WRONG person. Not like those leftist students :)

My response would be they were just as wrong as those students and should receive the same treatment from the media as such but that's unlikely to happen since they're just "gun nuts" and don't have valid views.

250 comments and still running. This is going to make one of the top posts in 2014. Id be interested in the analysis of why. It appears to me that the leftists have this irresistable urge to defend their position on this rather unimportant issue.

Defending the right to free speech is very important.

It appears to me that the leftists have this irresistable urge to defend their position on this rather unimportant issue.

Their position on this issue is that their sensibilities properly trump every other consideration anywhere they turn their attention. So, the graduation ceremony has to be aligned with their political views. Their disposition toward the milieux in which they live is childish.

Funny how people are possessed of this fantasy that leftist students are anti-free speech because they hold public protests over eminent speakers who already have plenty of authority and freedom (in the sense of a capacity and ability, or power) to address large audiences in any number of fora.

Meanwhile, truly conservative colleges require students to sign purity pledges, actively police the religious and political views of their faculty, and would not deign to let radicals and heathens corrupt their academic environments. Of course, you don't see student protests here because the ideological uniformity of those producing and those receiving the content has already been carefully controlled.

It seems like this brings about more free speech. After sitting through some horrendous and self-satisfied commencement speakers I wish I could have protested some of them. Most students these days are too busy on their smartphones than listening to the speaker because the speaker is: either inaccessibly mouthing bromides, bought their way to the speaker-ship through endowments, gives a political instead of inspiring speech, or isn't anyone the student would find worth listening to. I hope there will be fewer Arianna Huffingtons and more Tyler Cowens the next time I graduate.

Right now it appears like Drupal is the best blogging platform available right now.
(from what I've read) Is that what you're using on your blog?

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