My thoughts on recent campus fracases

This topic feels over-covered by other sources, but still I would like to see these points receive more attention:

1. I don’t trust early media reports on such matters, and so I am reluctant to offer judgment on a variety of the specifics.  That includes Yale, Mizzou, and other places.  For most or maybe even close to all readers, the proper context probably is missing and perhaps some of the facts are being garbled.

2. Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do.  There is no infringement of freedom of speech when a university acts in this manner.  Public funding does introduce some complications, but even there residual regulatory rights exist.

3. Subtle linguistic cues, social barriers, bigotries of expectations, and segregations can in fact harm students and shape their future life prospects.  That said, I am mostly skeptical about the ability of universities to undo these social mechanisms by conscious social engineering of the immediate environment.  Some gain can be achieved, and some of the worst harms can and should be avoided, but it is a mistake to expect too much from universities in this regard.

4. My personal preference is to see controversial ideas discussed and debated openly on campuses,more so than is currently the case.  Those ideas are going to be out there anyway, so let’s have universities contribute to shaping the broader social discourse.  For instance imagine that more advanced forms of genetic engineering someday become possible, and parents can selectively abort an embryo with a higher chance of being gay.  Do we really want to be in a position where universities have shied away from discussing this issue for decades?  I say no, realizing that in the meantime some peoples’ feelings will indeed have ended up being hurt.  If you are gay, and sitting in a classroom discussion of this topic, or maybe you just have a gay friend — whatever — I doubt if there is a fully comfortable way for this discussion to proceed.  Yet the rest of the world is going to be talking about this, the internet above all, and making the university a “safe space” won’t make the broader world one, if anything the contrary.

5. The natural tendency for administrators is to want to minimize internal disruption, even if that is sometimes at the expense of having a broader world impact.  I thus believe many administrators overinvest in political correctness, at least from a Benthamite, utilitarian point of view.  See #4.

6. The upshot of this all is that lower tier administrators will be sending fewer all-student emails in the future.  And some presidents may be less interested in improving the quality of their football teams, or starting such teams in the first place.  I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

7. Most of the world knows very, very little about the details of these events.  They see there is a mess, and they think something is wrong with universities, students, parents, administrators — everyone.  No matter what happens from this point, universities have messed up and lost this round rather badly.

For this post I am indebted to a discussion with Stephen Macedo and two of his students, but of course they are not to be implicated in my opinions one way or the other.

Comments


1. Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises.
2. My personal preference is to see controversial ideas discussed and debated openly on campuses

Pick one.

Those are not contradictory statements.

"they are not to be implicated": don't give me instructions, buddy. Micro-aggression!! Can I have some muscle here!

They aren't necessarily contradictory. They are, however, contradictory in our current environment, wherein the decision making will surely be left to people who believe that debating certain people or certain ideas is violence.

From the link:

President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” and “Free Speech” posters.

http://www.amherstsoul.com/post/133122838315/amherst-uprising-what-we-stand-for

Would an "All Lives Matter" poster be permitted because it's a controversial idea, or prohibited because it's a form of regulated speech the college doesn't want on campus?

RJ,

Your link captures the real issue at hand in way that TC's seven points completely misses. This is a fascist moment where left-wing thugs are asserting that they have a right to suppress any opinion they disagree with and that they have a right to use the machinery of campus administration to impose their intolerance and oppression.

The use of force and violence to intimidate unwanted opinions is as old as human society. Indeed, much of the world actively embraces such views. Islamists are quite willing to murder anyone who offends them. Stalin had no use for free speech ("Give me a man and I will find the crime") nor did Mao. Hitler's Brownshirts weren't big fans of free expression.

The key question facing the U.S. is whether a similar system of ideological repression will prevail in our country. Note that we already have many of the features of the Soviet system working today. Politically incorrect statements (no matter if they are true or not) are inevitably followed by show trials, abject apologies, confessions. etc. No gulag (yet).

5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.” Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

So, their position is that proponents of free speech need to attend re-education campus. :)

TD,

"So, their position is that proponents of free speech need to attend re-education campus"

Exactly.

You missed Genghis Khan.

I'm very interested to hear how these groups can be fascist and communist. Get a grip.

They're hardly calling for liquidation of the Kulaks (that's in the 2.0 version). But I wouldn't hire any of these people to mow my yard.

I’m very interested to hear how these groups can be fascist and communist.

Then allow me to explain it to you. Fascist and communist groups show the same lack of tolerance to any outside opinion and want the opinion-holder punished with the full force of the law. Did that do it for you?

No, no it didn't. If that's true there's a category that contains both and also contains them (not really but for the sake of argument) that he should use instead of inaccurate terms used only for their value as slurs.

As far as I know none of the students are calling for the elevation of a strong ruler to lead the state or the abolition of private property. This kind of nonsense is one thing for a talk radio demagogue, but I'd expect better out of someone that's ostensibly well educated.

They are essentially calling for the nation to be controlled absolutely by them and people like them, without the rule of law. This control would not stop at the boundary of private property.

They'll keep telling everyone to get a grip right up to the point they put those same people in jail. There are already proposals at the Senate level to criminalize discussion of climate science.

I hear there's also aliens on the way that can read your thoughts unless you wear a tinfoil hat.

TallDave 1, cd 0.

They want money from Exxon. No one is going to jail.

So heavy financial penalties for disagreeing with the government aren't a civil liberties issue, as long as there's no jail time involved? That is a new one on me.

It's Over and Scoop have some very good comments below.

"Disappointing post from Tyler, which doesn’t address what I think is the real story here: the power of small, radical left groups to dictate what is and isn’t acceptable speech or activity on college campuses. Yale’s president abjectly apologized to the entire student body because a mid-level administrator stated that the university maybe shouldn’t get too involved in policing Halloween costumes. Does anyone think he would apologize to some conservative Christians if they complained about Halloween mocking their religious beliefs or whatever? I think that’s a big deal, but Tyler just says well we don’t know the details and now football teams might have less clout."

"This larger trend to prohibit speech is going to have a huge chilling impact on serious research into and discussion of many of the most important issues that face our very diverse society. It reduces rather than increases the chance that we will ever come to terms with the group differences that upset us so much, reduces the chance for genuine tolerance among people with different values and reduces the chance that the US will still rank among the best places to live in 50 years time.

It’s a big deal."

The following quote from "Can We Start Taking Political Correctness Seriously Now?" By Jonathan Chait is far more to the point.

"The student protest at the University of Missouri began as a response to a serious problem — outbursts of vile racism on campus — and quickly devolved into an expression of a renewed left-wing hostility to freedom of expression. At the protest on Missouri’s campus yesterday, on a space that is expressly open to free expression, protesters barred journalists from covering the demonstrations. In one scene, protesters surrounded and harassed Tim Tai, a photographer with the student newspaper, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, journalists have got to go.” The scene is captured on a video here, which rewards close watching until the end, where Melissa Click, a professor of mass media working with the protest movement, calls out, “Help me get this reporter out of here. I need some muscle over here.”"

outbursts of vile racism on campus —
--
Come again? One person says he was insulted by a passing vehicle and there's a police report of a small piece of graffiti in a dorm bathroom.

Art Deco, that "small piece of graffiti" was a swastika. Made of feces.

Therefore what?

"Art Deco, that “small piece of graffiti” was a swastika. Made of feces."

Someone who did that in Nazi Germany would have been shot. People who see this as some kind of Stormfront provocation aren't thinking straight. It's obviously a false flag incident perpetrated by some none-too-bright SJW.

I believe that link is satire.

They are when the restriction is against discussing the possibility of free speech.

This whole situation makes me feel like society values the 1st amendment less than the 2nd amendment.

Andrew,

"This whole situation makes me feel like society values the 1st amendment less than the 2nd amendment."

That is basically true. The 2nd amendment has an effective lobby (the NRA) behind it. The 1st amendment has been largely abandoned (at least on college campuses). Why? The 1st amendment (if it was taken seriously) would interfere with the ability of campus (and non-campus) thugs to suppress all opinions they disagree with.

In contemporary America, the cult of "Diversity" trumps everything.

Once upon a time the media and the legal profession were something of a lobby for the 1st Amendment. It later emerged that they only cared about making a conduit for traffick in smut.

I, for one, salute them.

What don't you and me make some smut big boy?

Thats the equilibrium (2>1), but its not the college admins fault its people fear.

#1 is legally incorrect for public universities if it means that they can tregate speech based on viewpoint, heckler's veto, etc. Neutral, reasonable time & space regulation. Recommend following Eugene Volokh for a better understanding of this.

This weekend: Symposium at Yale on whether RobertJordan hates n***ers or just dislikes them

2. Publicly funded schools are mostly subject to the First Amendment, no?

Welfare recipients are allowed to pick a religion and support it while discouraging people from choosing other faiths, aren't they?

Being supported by taxpayers does not make you a government agency.

I think the question being asked is a legal/constitutional one, ie does Tinker apply to state colleges.

Tinker is a case which limits 1st Amendment rights in public schools. But it doe snot apply to Universities, which must protect 1st Amendment rights with fewer exceptions.

Obviously you're not a lawyer. In fact the 1st amendment does apply to public universities.

"Being supported by taxpayers does not make you a government agency."

No, but "publicly funded schools" generally means colleges/universities that are owned by a state. A school like Harvard gets hundreds of millions in public funds via research grants but remains a private college, not a "publicly funded school"

Public universities have a Board of Regents/Trustees which is usually appointed by the Governor, often subject to legislative approval.

Public universities are part of a state government for purposes of the First Amendment. This is well established law.

What do you mean by "Publicly funded schools"?

Schools that receive any tax dollars? Those that receive more than half their funds from tax dollars? If the former, then pretty much all universities. If the latter, then my schools, Illinois and Michigan ( State flagships) are not included.

Schools that are actual state agencies. You are making this much harder than it needs to be and muddying the waters needlessly. Some universities are public entities. It is easy to determine which. These are subject to the First Amendment.

Simply getting state money does not make you a state actor. You have to be more directly connected to the government - a specific arm of the government, an entity created by statute, in a direct joint venture with the government, performing a traditional government function, or acting under the coercion or direct control of the government.

GMU is a public school, and even though Prof. Cowen seems unaware of it, the 1st Amendment is what rules discourse at the university - with the proviso that just like at any government agency (the courtroom and its requirement for decorum being a prime example), rules can be set. For example, a student that only shouts in class may be dismissed, but that is due to the volume of what is said, and not the actual content. In this sense, a goverment agency or a corporation have equal rights. But no public institution is allowed to have the freedom of a corporation when it comes to suppressing or punishing free speech within the framework of the 1st Amendment.

Eugene Volokh, who just happens to actually know the law (though one could suggest he is as much a libertarian as Prof. Cowen in strikingly similar fashion, including both having tenure at taxpayer funded institutions of higher learning), is an excellent source for current and accurate information concerning the law regarding free expression in public institutions - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/

Your little proviso undoes your whole point. Try again.

Weak: if you are actually interested in what sort of restrictions a government agency can set, and have the ability to understand sophisticated legal issues, then Prof. Volokh has written at blog-style length about this issue. If you want something more detailed, there are whole treatises at the local law school library, or you could read the actual cases.

Within the confines of a blog comment, I will note that despite what Prof. Cowen thinks, the Constitution assuredly does not allow a state university to discipline a student for stating publicly that "all lives matter," or that he or she supports free speech.

In particular in Missouri Universities are subject to the new state "Campus Free Expression Act" which you can read here.

It does, of course, protect the protestors just as much. (It appears that some protestors believe that they are the ones with power and prefer no First Amendment protection, which would allow the ConcernedStudent group to safely "punch down" without fear of journalists or others "punching up." They may or may not be wrong about their relative privilege.)

In Missouri, at least, it looks like some of the students learned from the experience (https://twitter.com/big_reub/status/664136076617842688). They embarrassed themselves, while the grown-ups basically talked themselves out of their jobs (I hope).

"A state university without question is a state actor." National Collegiate Athletic Assn. v. Tarkanian, 488 US 179 - Supreme Court 1988

Public universities are bound by the First Amendment; private universities (even if they receive government money) are not. Although government can attach conditions to the money.

Government restrictions on the time, place, or manner of speech are mostly constitutional; discrimination based on the content of speech is not.

The First Amendment protects disagreeable speech; indeed, if it were to protect only agreeable speech then it would be all but meaningless.

The courts have pretty widely disagreed with Cowen on this point: https://www.thefire.org/in-court/state-of-the-law-speech-codes/

>Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do.

Mizzou doesn't.

Class of people worse at their only job than university/college administrators? Congress, maybe?

In response to Clint; there is an interesting question there. The term funded is the tricky one; encompassing not only the old state schools, which are less publicly funded than they once were, and the private schools, which are more. The federal gov't has used vast funding to manipulate higher education and the voters have allowed it. Personally, I think the voters have acted like fools, but that doesn't change what has been done.

universities as incubators of society-wide ideas, public good?

I agree that we, especially those of us off campus for decades, don't know what is really going on. Perhaps my guess is that we have some over-protective practices and some loathsome behavior. To meet in a reasonable middle administration would have to recalibrate expectations.

By loathsome behaviour are you referring to hypothetically wearing inappropriate Holloween costumes or the behaviour of the Sillman students?

It seems to me that there are some rather dire consequences going around for merely being rude, or worse, tolerating the rudeness of others. Wielding some blunt bureaucratic authority to attempt to force people to be polite or face the consequences strikes me as an incredibly bad idea.

Agree. The other things is that the protests are often aimed not at actual rudeness, but at the mere expression of some contradictory idea.
For example, in the Yale case, the outrage is being directed at an administrator for rather timidly suggesting that maybe the college shouldn't be policing Halloween costumes, and the definition of what costumes are normatively appropriate should be left to students to work out amongst themselves in an organic way.
The adminstrator was not being rude or offensive herself. She was merely challenging the activists position that these issues must be handled by resorting to authority to punish the offenders.

Don't send your kid to any college that has any kind of Grievance Studies department. He'll come out broke, stupid, and insufferable.

The exception is probably if your kid is an engineering or hard sciences major, especially if he's already gotten some gen eds out of the way at a STEM high school or community college and therefore will dive right into the required courses for his major. Students in those majors seem to be uninvolved in and somewhat insulated from this grievance nonsense. Plus they have too much actual classwork to do to be attending protests.

Have fun supporting your community college kid for the rest of his life.

These would-be totalitarians are so glib about their takeover of higher education.

You lunatics have your own institutions. I can't imagine why no one takes Liberty University seriously. It must be a conspiracy by we would-be totalitarians.

99% of the population is made up of lunatics, huh? But the 1% radical leftist/fascist movement has captured 99% of the colleges in the country. There are no schools where normal people can go without fascist indoctrination.

Maybe you can use some of the obviously copious amount of free time you have to go look up the word fascist. Radical and indoctrination would also be good choices.

Maybe you could use some of your obviously copious free time to grow a brain

I see your "I'm rubber" and counter with "you're glue".

My son the plumber, no school after high school, is doing fine. At 21 years old he owns his own home.

Have fun supporting your community college kid for the rest of his life.
--
Victimology programs are seldom departmental majors. They're usually shizzy interdisciplinary majors. Virginia Tech stuffs theirs in the Sociology department (where that sort of material counts as a 'research interest' of all of 8 faculty of the 1,400 teaching at the institution as a whole). It's not difficult to find baccalaureate granting institutions without such programs (Stevens Tech, to name one). Neither did they have any such programs where and when I enrolled in college. I suppose we were all fundamentalist fanatics back then.

I highly encourage you to convince your grandchildren to send your great-grandchildren to Stevens Tech.

I'd be delighted to have a great grandson trained as an engineer in Hoboken or anyplace else.

The purpose of an education is to get a credential that will impress employers. (I know Prof. Cowen and his friends think that they are engaged in some noble enterprise advancing the human condition, but that's nonsense.) Obviously, majoring in grievance studies will not impress employers. (These days, grievance studies encompasses English, at least at Emory.) On the other hand, picking up an easy "A" or two in those departments, while completing your math or econ major, will boost your GPA without raising flags, so it's good idea. Recall, the frat boys flocked to the Afro-Am no-show courses at UNC, because they knew that A's were there for the asking.

Affirmative action sections are part of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. Impressing employers may come to mean something different from what you're thinking.

The most bogus degree, flocked to by the douchiest of the douches, continues to be the Bachelors in Business or Business Administration. The degree requires no critical thinking, provides very little fundamental training for your next job. It does provide you with a golden ticket to access jobs at the best companies (GS, Big 4 Accounting, all the consulting firms, a lot of tech firms). For some reason, its always English and History that are picked on, probably because Business is what the conservative bros study (although if you were to read this forum, you would think that every conservative in America is an engineer, and that all engineers are conservative, lol)

My wife was an English major. Her degree was significantly harder to achieve and significantly more time consuming than either of mine (Math and . . . Business). You don't know what you are talking about.

So your story is that most companies are stupid for hiring business majors, and their wage premiums provide us with no insight whatsoever as to the worth of their degrees.

Cool story bro.

In my experience, the best way to destroy a business is to hire a bunch of MBAs as managers, especially if they got their degrees from an Ivy League school. Are businesses stupid to do this? Generally, yes, although some of them may be counting on the tax benefits of the destruction. But that's what good-old-boys networks are for, to make stupid decisions that benefit your network, and the biggest reason to get an MBA from an Ivy is to network...

Look at the majority of the CEOs of HP after the founders for an example.

Let's take finance, accounting and consulting, which are three of the top target jobs for business students. There is little from the business curriiculum coursework that is applicable to these jobs. You will receive 6-12 week of training before starting work to learn everything you need to know to succeed in your job.

The business degree is stamp of approval, that you're part of the old boy's cub (which is comprised of a lot of blacks, minorities and women, it's quite diverse)

Anyways, the point I was making, which apparently you had difficulty understanding before ranting about wage premiums was that the conservative outrage against English and History degrees is bullshit. They are no worse than Business degrees when it comes to practicality.

You don't know what I majored in (Econ), or where (figure it out), or my daughter's English syllabus at Emory, or what she is majoring in (math and poli sci), or anything about me or about any contemporary college. I know exactly what I am talking about. And in fact, I advised my daughter strongly against majoring in business.

Okay, so your entire understanding is based on one class your daughter has taken. The point is that English as a degree is actually a difficult major. There are easy A courses within the Econ department as well. An Econ degree is not particularly difficult.

If I have it right.....both the Yale and Mizzou pansy-riots are over the administration's inability to protect students from their own fevered imaginations.

At Yale, a man lost his job because his wife wrote an e-mail in which she said perhaps students could police their own Halloween costumes. Do note there were no complaints about actual costumes. This was a theoretical discussion about prior restraint on costumes. And because the administration failed to send costume inspectors out, and a professor's wife said this was probably ok, that's the trick.

At Mizzou, a vastly rich kid complained he couldn't afford health insurance once Obamacare was implemented, and the student body president and homecoming king claimed that an alleged insult yelled from a passing truck had "marginalized" him on campus, which is basically the same as the Holocaust. Oh, and someone (if history is any guide, likely the complainant) smeared a feces-swastika on a bathroom wall. This has led to hallucinations of a full-fledged KKK chapter on campus, allegedly stalking black students.

At Yale especially, there are literally no grounds whatsoever for anyone to be upset. No one did so much as wear a mildly offensive costume. This is entirely about the iomagination that they could have done. And because someone legally might have (but did not) wear blackface for halloween, students are having mental breakdowns, hysterically sobbing and shrieking in public, abandoning classes and demanding action! If anyone ever wondered how the Victorians ever managed to convince some women to play out the role of hysterical, exquisitely sensitive fainting violets, look no further than this.

Have I missed an episode? The man at Yale whose wife wrote the email didn't lose his job, I believe. It is at Missouri that the president lost his job.

No, the man at Yale still has his job , he "merely" had to give a public denunciation/apology where he admitted his counterrevolutionary error.

Just like Chinese professors in the Red Guard era.

To be fair, in the Red Guard era, they *killed* the Chinese professors after making them confess. I don't think any professors have been executed yet. The Victorian analogy is much more apt, much less hyperbolic.

Bob from Ohio doesn't let a little thing like facts get in the way of good spittle flecked rant. He has oxycontin to be shooting up after all, can't get bogged down in details.

"PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH OUR SPEECH CODES ARE WHITE TRASH"

Since Yale doesn't have a speech code, I'm not sure what relevance they are to anything. On top of that there are ways to oppose speech codes with insane hyperbole about Maoism. Finally, one can even indulge in insane hyperbole about Maoism without being white trash. Being from Ohio on the other hand ...

"they *killed* the Chinese professors after making them confess"

Sometimes, sometimes not. They were sent to camps too and sometimes just dismissed. It depended on the Red Guard faction involved.

Ed has cracked the code. Every single person in Ohio is a drug addict!!!

Hangs head in shame.

Since Yale doesn’t have a speech code,

Yes it does. It just does not have the worst sort of speech code. Per FIRE:

Yellow Light: A yellow light institution maintains policies that could be interpreted to suppress protected speech or policies that, while clearly restricting freedom of speech, restrict only narrow categories of speech. For example, a policy banning “verbal abuse” has broad applicability and poses a substantial threat to free speech, but it is not a clear violation because “abuse” might refer to unprotected speech, such as threats of violence or genuine harassment. Similarly, while a policy banning “posters promoting alcohol consumption” clearly restricts speech, it is relatively limited in scope. Yellow light policies are typically unconstitutional, and a rating of yellow rather than red in no way means that FIRE condones a university’s restrictions on speech. Rather, it means that in FIRE’s judgment, those restrictions do not clearly and substantially restrict speech in the manner necessary to warrant a red light rating.

Maybe FIRE should google "state action doctrine" or hire a lawyer to explain to them its implications for the word "unconstitutional".

Universities were founded on Enlightenment values, the most important of which was free inquiry, which eventually became the basis for our First Amendment.

So, yes, it's true there are no direct 1A issues. It's also true that the principle of free inquiry is more important than the First Amendment.

It's nice that no one's been executed yet. Let's all give them a big hand for their restraint.

Funny, I thought universities were founded to train clerics to preach the good news about zombie Jesus. TIL.

Maybe FIRE should google “state action doctrine” or hire a lawyer to explain to them its implications for the word “unconstitutional”.

The Yellow category is an omnibus which applies to a number of issues, not all of which apply to a given institution.

Reading comprehension. It's great stuff.

Funny, I thought universities were founded to train clerics to preach the good news about zombie Jesus.

We get it. You don't know the difference between a medieval university and a low-rent ministry training program.

BTW, this is the best summary of the Missouri kerfuffle I have read:

"At Mizzou, a vastly rich kid complained he couldn’t afford health insurance once Obamacare was implemented, and the student body president and homecoming king claimed that an alleged insult yelled from a passing truck had “marginalized” him on campus, which is basically the same as the Holocaust. Oh, and someone (if history is any guide, likely the complainant) smeared a feces-swastika on a bathroom wall. This has led to hallucinations of a full-fledged KKK chapter on campus, allegedly stalking black students"

Bravo.

4. is a great point and as much as I criticize Tyler this needs to be repeated. I am not in favor of these campus liberals who seek to silence arguments they don't like by shouting them down or shutting them up.

For my part, I'm disappointed that there is so much dispositional analysis out there, and so little situational analysis. Where's Zimbardo when you need him?

Verily, Wodehouse is the best medicine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comrade_Bingo

https://emsworth.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/free-speech-at-the-speakers-corner-and-the-best-weapons-against-offensive-speech/

2. Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do. There is no infringement of freedom of speech when a university acts in this manner.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (thefire.org) would beg to disagree, and has been winning cases against censorious colleges both public and private.

> Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do.

Tyler? WTF? This. statement. is. just. plain. wrong.

A state university is a state actor and subject to the First Amendment - a hotel is not. There is some complexity - you can't run into an active lab and shout what you want. But a campus quod is a public space for speech purposes. It is NOTHING like a hotel for First Amendment purposes.

In years of reading this blog, this is the most plainly and clearly wrong thing I can remember Tyler writing. Seriously, why comment like this when you clearly have absolutely no idea what you're talking about? Very disappointed.

I see these events as part of a broader framework in which the powerless use social media to gain an advantage over the powerful. I believe Cowen's most perceptive observation is that these event may discourage colleges from becoming so invested in college athletics. Indeed, I don't know about Missouri, but if the athletes at a college in the South with a football obsession were to try this strategy, the alumni would not respond well. They may appreciate the athletes' contribution to football success, but they also expect the athletes to know their place, and their place is not to challenge authority and orchestrate a coup. Like Cowen, I believe less emphasis on athletics would be a good thing. I have commented many times that the higher education industry (and that includes athletics) is in deep trouble because, for the lower half, the high cost does not match the returns; and without the lower half, the large public university (and its athletic programs) will not survive; the lower makes it all possible by paying the high tuition, supporting the athletic programs, and making the contributions to the foundation. Without them the higher education industry collapses. But the slow death I once predicted did not take into account Facebook vigilantism and the mob it creates. Facebook was created for the university community so it's not surprising that social media would have its ultimate test in the campus community. Anybody familiar with a campus community knows about Facebook vigilantism, how it's used to attack the reputations and even the careers of those with views that differ from highly motivated people with an ax to grind. As I commented yesterday, Facebook vigilantism is Professor Girard's dark theory of human behavior applied in the digital age. I would hope that Missouri is a one-off, that it will not provide a perverse incentive for other college athletes with a complaint, no matter how meritorious, to emulate. But I'm not optimistic. Humans are like monkeys: they copy better far better than they create.

How exactly are privileged Yale students powerless?

All status is relative. That's why some Yale students don't see themselves as privileged, why some poor people in less developed countries don't see themselves as poor, because relative to others in their social grouping, they aren't.

Status may be relative, but powerlessness isn't. Access to Yale's resources, as a student is an immensely powerful thing. And having a Yale diploma will get you in doors that are closed to most other people, or at least get you in much easier. Being at Yale, so long as there are other lesser universities one could attend--or not attending one at all--is an absolutely privileged position.

Worth noting: Yale's football team doesn't have a contract with ABC.

What he really means is among the most privileged people in human history.

He right it is an attempt to gain social status and power, but it doesnt come from "powerless" people. It comes from upper middle class, high educated future elites.

See the following paper:
http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/

Except the "powerless" are never all that powerless. Take the Missouri student leaders. They are rich, hold positions of power, have connections to powerful politicians, virtually run campus, and can fire college presidents on a whim. Powerless? Perhaps you should look that word up. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Who has the power is always easy to discern. Who wins? Seems to me a college president or star lecturer is a lot, LOT less powerful than a whiny bint of a student. Especially if they have all that rich privilege, political connection privilege, positional privilege, and get affirmative action to boot!

Everything is locally relative. If you are the one person who wanders around comparing himself to Yemenis and Mongolians all day, you must be perpetually bewildered.

Facebook -- not to mention face-to-face vigilantism, like at Yale and Missouri -- kind of blurs (if not erases) the line between powerless and powerful. Their arguments about being "unsafe" while surrounding and threatening their enemies with impunity are so rich they set back my diet.

Number two is overly general as a statement of American law. A public university is pretty free to make content-neutral time and place restrictions on speech, to judge speech in an academic context based on its content (i.e., low grades for bad papers), and to regulate the speech of employees, absent contractual concerns. The rights of a public university in these cases don't perfectly mirror those of a private institution, but they are broad.

Punishing student speech based on content, however (i.e., banning a fraternity for racist chants made on campus) is heavily constrained by the first amendment. That would not be true for a private entity.

Of course, in these particular cases 1. Yale is private and 2. I don't see how firing a college president for allowing a football strike even implicates free speech.

The distinction between public/private does not get enough attention as a possible solution to these problems. Mizzou as a public school is bound by the First Amendment to tolerate offensive speech (even the n-word and swastikas in most cases) Yale as a private school is not. But the traditional stance of most private schools has been to embrace the First Amendment in full. If more private schools were to adopt speech codes, then we could run more experiments: if you want the freedom to say anything under the sun, go to State U. If you prefer a campus where vile insults are punished, go to Private U (maybe you can persuade the government to give you a voucher). If Private U overreacts and becomes too politically correct, transfer back to State. Mizzou and Yale needn't play by the same rules.

The First Amendment is the hammer (for public institutions, anyway, especially colleges and universities). The anvil is the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which for over five years now has taken the bit in its mouth and gone after all schools -- private and public alike -- that get any kind of Federal money*.

With "Dear Colleague" letters, time-consuming and public investigations and the ultimate thread of yanking Federal funding, OCR has forced schools to crack down on perceived ethnic, racial, sexual and other harassment** without so much as notice and a public comment period***.

Institutions like Yale are private enough to be exempt from the First Amendment****, but public enough to be subject to OCR. Which is why Erika Christakis' plea was kind of naive: Didn't she understand just why the administrators were pleading for a little sensitivity? PR damage, possibly an embarrassing, intrusive and extensive OCR inquiry, maybe even a lawsuit or two?

(To the best of my knowledge, exactly two colleges are totally private and thus can tell both First Amendment advocates and OCR to pound sand: Hillsdale and Grove City.)

On the other hand, Mizzou like almost everyone else lives under OCR...but also has to abide by the First Amendment. That's where things get interesting.

[*] And btw, Federal financial aid to individual students counts too.

[**] As well as sexual assault and rape, but that's another story.

[***] The requirements for passing regulations, under the Administrative Procedure Act.

[****] Though if a particular private school's free speech *promises* are clear enough, it might be held to them legally...assuming it couldn't plead force majeure (OCR).

Isn't this really just another illustration of the amusing and delicious irony that the value of the racial trump card is nowhere higher than a university setting? All falls before it. In most other settings where the card is played, real life intervenes.

2. Even non-state university campuses are a complicated mosaic of university property, third-party private property, and municipal property, all of which are interlaced by a variety of easements.

Tyler, familiarize yourself with the term 'micro-aggression'. That'll be the next front.

One thing is for sure, universities won't improve until society and specifically, the various demographic segments of society improves.

Please, enlighten us as to what you mean by "the various demographic segments of society."

"White people", "Black people", "Brown people" (pick two). Or, "people who are more liberal than I am" and "people who are more conservative than I am". Or, "people who are richer than I am" and "people are are poorer than I am". Basically, everybody who is not me. I'm pretty great.

Except that I occasionally make typing errors. Also, "people who driver slower than I do" and "people who drive faster than I do."

My point is that these issues do not originate in the university system. It boils down to how we treat one another. I, as well as the demographic segments I am classified as, can always improve in this respect and was not trying to signal any sort of supremacy with my statement.

You said "society and specifically the various demographic segments." You further clarified, "I... can always improve..." So maybe what you meant was, "Society and specifically myself and other individuals." But if so, why not just take out the "society" and "demographic" part and just saying something honest, such as, "universities won't improve until I and people like me improve?"

Fair enough. In terms of demographics, classes of individuals are segregated by common characteristics of those individuals. What is at issue, however, is not one-off instances unless you think the protesters and media are inflating the story. Look at the protester's demands; they are asking for institutional change and training for incoming classmates. Their prescription indicates a systemic, categorical issue. Therefore, they indicate their plight is not a microcosm but something widespread. My initial comment relates to that point of view, unless, again, you think their demands are irrelevant or go to far.

From a micro point of view, I'll continually to strive to do better and I'll challenge those around me (ie children, family and friends) to do so as well.

From a macro point of view, the various groups do need to improve otherwise the amount of unrest wouldn't be at this level.

My response or clarification was to indicate that, while I try to acknowledge my biases, I was not trying to deflect blame or indicate any sort of supremacy.

"Their prescription indicates a systemic, categorical issue. Therefore, they indicate their plight is not a microcosm but something widespread."

I have to wonder if you realize what you're saying. If we weren't talking about students, but instead were talking about, say, white supremacists, you would never claim that "their prescription indicates a systemic issue." The reason you wouldn't take that claim seriously has nothing to do with whether you think "the protesters and the media are inflating the story," nor whether you think "their demands go too far."

You'd reject that claim because white supremacy is a pathology, not a legitimate grievance. You're almost suggesting that the fact that students believe there is something worth protesting proves that there is. You're committing the same basic mistake they are: You're assuming that if you - or they - or whoever - feels that something is true, then it must be true, especially if they feel it really hard.

But, no. The phrase "perception is reality" means that other people will change their behavior toward you, depending on how they perceive you. It does not mean that you can alter reality by changing your perception of it.

That's the whole controversy. Just because someone got their feelings hurt doesn't mean the entire university secretly subscribes to Steve Sailer's newsletter. That's just what they think. Reality may be totally different. What we need to start discussing is not how people feel, but what actually is true.

I do realize what I'm saying. I was somewhat playing devil's advocate in my last post -- leading you to concede, like I believe, the story is hyped. I truly have my doubts about their fundamental complaints and motives, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt -- up until a point.

That said, if I were in a position of leadership, I would give them the benefit of the doubt until I was able to get to the heart of the matter. I wouldn't reject their claim outright. Whether it is white supremacists or ConcernedStudent1950, once we're at the heart of the matter -- through an open dialog, recording of facts, etc. -- then, I and hopefully by then, they, would realize their claim is over-inflated.

I don't know the specifics as far as how the president dealt with their grievances, but one will get nowhere dismissing other's grievances outright. Reality is highly likely to be totally different. As a leader it is imperative you are able to both understand one's perceptions, but also guide those perceptions back to reality. Had the president and administrators done this, I doubt the issues would have escalated.

That's it from me. You can parse my semantics further if you'd like, otherwise, have a good evening.

"leading you to concede, like I believe, the story is hyped."

Why do you believe that I conceded this despite the fact that I told you explicitly that I do not believe this in the 3rd sentence of my last comment?

Parsing sentences is my way of attempting to understand what sentences mean. In this case, what I learned is that you think grievances should not be dismissed, even if they are not reflective of reality. I don't know what "reality" is, in this case. My opinion is that reality ought to be determined and acted upon.

But your position, articulated perfectly in your most recent comment, is that grievances should not be dismissed. That's all. One last question: Why do you think that will work?

Ryan, we're all well familiar with the term you think you're the first to have heard. Cool veiled supremacy, though.

I should have read Tyler's post more carefully. #3 indicates he's aware and his conclusion on that point aligns with mine. You and Mark do not appear ready for #4 just yet.

Actually, I was engaging in discussion there. It is easy to point out, as in your original post, that "society" and "demographic segments" need to improve. I was responding (snarkily) that many people point out the faults in others or "society" as a means of deflecting self-evaluation. You later clarify you actually read the post that the issues "[boil] down to how we treat one another." When individuals take more responsibility for how they treat others, that's a good thing, even as we should all acknowledge the institutional forces that skew/nudge our behavior. So best wishes to you.

Posts such as this one draw out a lot of emotion so my lesson learned is that I need to be more careful with my words. Best wishes to you as well.

Any off-hand comment I do not like is automatically racist!

No, no, no. I'm tremendously racist. It's just the veiled part that irked me.

There's much to recommend a Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Absolutely.

Start by taxing their endowments.

Are you planning on burning their libraries like the last time?

The libraries full of hymn books written over ancient classics that are now lost to us?

This is what I'm referring to:

http://www.mhpbooks.com/secret-book-by-archimedes-discovered/

It doesn't matter if they burned most of the books the country had, they weren't worthwhile books anyway based on this example from several thousand miles and three centuries away. Wow, apologist much?

+1

Apparently human knowledge and culture are collateral damage when there are teams to join and sides to be chosen. Oops, wrong blog. I mean, when there are moods to be affiliated with.

I apologize, I was drawing a totally unwarranted conclusion from Harun's comment

It's a prayer book and if you bothered to read the article, the original transcription is also attributable to a monastic or cleric.

After current events, the two mentioned and others will: cause:

1. High profile speakers to decline speaking invitations on campus to avoid accidentally getting involved in this kind of scandal.

2. Researchers who would have normally chosen academia to instead move into the private sector.

1. I don’t trust early media reports on such matters, and so I am reluctant to offer judgment on a variety of the specifics. That includes Yale, Mizzou, and other places. For most or maybe even close to all readers, the proper context probably is missing and perhaps some of the facts are being garbled.

Probably true, but given the incentives the media faces, this likely means that any racially charged incidents on any of these campuses were actually overhyped and perhaps completely fabricated rather than merely garbled or lacking "proper context." In other words, the situation is probably worse than it appears; this is more of a witch hunt/hissy fit/moral panic than it looks like from the outside.

Nah, I don't think we can make much judgement either way not just because the context is lacking, but because the context here is inherently difficult to extract and understand; and it is precisely in these situations that the media loves to blow up the scene and stick the controversy onto the 24/7 news cycle. People are already polarized into two camps; now, they're going to be continually scouring the news sites and blogs for more tidbits of information that they can throw at the other camp and validate their own camp, which works out fabulously for the media since they can keep the cameras rolling and slowly dish out more and more juicy tidbits and gossip and etc. for the next two months. Which is great news for the advertisers and data-miners.

This is why the Michael Brown case became a 24/7 news sensation, and not the dozen cases of police killings that were extremely clear-cut. Michael Brown was an ambiguous case with mystery shrouding the actual act of killing, and controversy surrounding his character; thus, it was polarizing (and therefore profitable) in a way that the dozen other clear-cut cases of police killings weren't.

"...because the context here is inherently difficult to extract and understand."

I do not get this sentiment. This isn't the Vietnam War; it's a suburban college campus. People go to class, they go home, they study, and on the weekends, they drink a lot.

Arjun, Jeff R.,

The details of the Yale attacks on free speech are quite well known and not in dispute. The "Intercultural Affairs" committee sent an Email to all Yale students warning them against politically incorrect Halloween costumes. A group of students offended by the heavy-handed repression complained. Erika Christakis sent an Email to the students living in one residential house suggesting that they were adults and could deal with this on their own.

A Yale student had a quasi-psychotic meltdown in response.

I'm looking forward to this new MR policy, where Prof. Cowen offers no judgment on issues where he doesn't know the specifics. It will be a shorter, and very technical, blog.

It's ironic that having made this statement, Prof. Cowen then makes some inaccurate statements about the law, an area where is evidently ignorant of the specifics.

I don't think the question is really whether universities have a right to regulate speech. The problem seems to be that these students groups, with the cooperation of the Department of Education, have a legally obligation to regulate speech, under the Civil Rights Act.
Indeed, in BOTH of these cases, the University administrators in question have been generally *against* speech regulation. They are being pushed to regulate speech they would rather not regulate under the threat of lawsuits.
The students approach to this issue is to assert that the presence of offensive speech on campus makes the enviroment unsafe in a psychological sense. That is that being exposed to speech that is "triggering" is psychologically traumatizing to the point that it interferes with their studies and thus that in order to have equal access to education the university has an obligation to protect them from triggering words or phrases (or Halloween costumes). In addition, that past histories of trauma from rape and/or exposure to racism is equivalent to a disability that must be accomodated. I.e. The student must be excused from reading parts of the curriculum or allowed to read it on his/her own time, or given extra time to complete an exam because of some triggering event (i.e. the latest campus racial incident).

I agree that subtle social interations can in fact harm students, but I don't think that the demands being put forth help with that much. They seem to be more frequently aimed at supressing discussion of particular ideas than they are at fostering interracial harmony or promoting better social norms. The answer to every form of offensive speech is not necessarily to suppress the offensive speech. A much healthier environment would be fostered by teaching students to be tolerant in both directions. More tolerance of racial diversity, AND more tolerance for subtle and unintended racial slights (microagressions).

Argh. I mean the students are arguing that campuses have a legal obligation to regulate speech. (got garbled)

"The answer to every form of offensive speech is not necessarily to suppress the offensive speech. A much healthier environment would be fostered by teaching students to be tolerant in both directions. More tolerance of racial diversity, AND more tolerance for subtle and unintended racial slights (microagressions)."

+1.

Before this year, I had not realized what a hotbed of racism and sexism some of the most left wing campuses in the US were.

Truly, the Straight White Man has never been more oppressed!

Arjun,

"Truly, the Straight White Man has never been more oppressed!"

That's the same logic the Nazis used to attack the Jews. German Jews were typically urban and prosperous. By definition (your definition) they couldn't possibly be victims of racism, discrimination, etc.

It's way easier to keep up a rhetoric against whites. If you'd not needlessly muddy the issue with the Jews and Asians who are actually at the peak socioeconomically, I'd appreciate it.

I would say that is an accurate statement although completely unrelated to the comment you respond to

It is shocking that one in five women on campus can be raped without the world knowing about it until leftist groups beat everyone over the head with the fact.

I'd rather send my daughter to go ride buses in India for four years, what with the stats at U.S. colleges.

I somehow don't think she'd be less molested on Indian public buses, I lived in India for a considerable amount of time. Thank you stars if she doesn't get her boobs pinched more than once a day.

Less likely to get raped at a U.S. college than as a like aged member of the general public.

7. Most of the world knows very, very little about the details of these events. They see there is a mess, and they think something is wrong with universities, students, parents, administrators — everyone. No matter what happens from this point, universities have messed up and lost this round rather badly.

I know as much as one can know from reading lots of coverage...and I still think something is wrong with universities, students, parents, and administrators.

And how much of a change was that to your prior beliefs?

Professor Cowen's syllabus contains so-called "trigger warnings".

Does it contain trigger warnings about possible fre-markety content? Because I suspect that is the most necessary one.

Warning: May contain ideas that challenge your belief in social democracy.

some presidents may be less interested in improving the quality of their football teams, or starting such teams in the first place ...
Given about a century's worth of entrenchment, I don't expect the existing system to change all that quickly...
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-shame-of-college-sports/308643/

Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do. There is no infringement of freedom of speech when a university acts in this manner.

For public universities (like Mizzou) this is 100% incorrect. The Supreme Court has ruled the first amendment is fully binding on public universities. Public universities have no “right to regulate speech.” Many private universities like Yale claim they value freedom of speech. From Yale's website, "Yale’s commitment to freedom of expression means that when you agree to matriculate, you join a community where “the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox” must be tolerated. When you encounter people who think differently than you do, you will be expected to honor their free expression, even when what they have to say seems wrong or offensive to you."

I like the confidence. Now would you kindly answer the question posed by "umm yes" below.

Dmitri Helios' answer below is spot on. It is unconstitutional for a public university to discipline an individual for exercising their first amendment rights. Universities do it all the time, of course, and that's why organizations like FIRE and the ACLU have to intervene on the behalf of students and faculty. The FIRE and ACLU websites are great sources for learning about first amendment protections.

I'll defer to the esteemed Prof. Volokh, whose recent piece would indicate the student can be forbidden from further speaking at the discretion of the professor. Sorry, no first amendment protection there.

There is first amendment protection but it is limited by the need for classroom order. The University could not suspend the student for that speech, though (in my opinion, anyway).

I'm comfortable being on the side of the Supreme Court.

I recommend the following paper to understand this unique culture and its strange incentives

http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/15691330-12341332

Very thoughtful. Thanks for sharing. It is a good reading. Keep up with the good job.

"Universities have the right to regulate speech and also behavior on their premises, just as a corporation does or a hotel might do. There is no infringement of freedom of speech when a university acts in this manner."

Umm. No. Public universities are subject to the first amendment. Corporations and hotels are not.

Let me hazard a guess that you're not a First Amendment lawyer. Here's a practice question for you.

At the end of class at Public U, the professor asks if their are any general comments or questions. Ed raises his hand and when called upon says, "It is my belief that everything you said in the last hour is indefensible idiocy, and also that your wife is an atrocious, foul-smelling, fat little troll of a woman."

Please discuss the extent to which the U.S. Constitution protects Ed from disciplinary action.

"Please discuss the extent to which the U.S. Constitution protects Ed from disciplinary action."

Completely and in total measure.

Unfortunately, your hopes and misunderstandings do not make it so.

You're going to have to provide a cite if you want to provide legal lessons. And I don't see you disagreeing with my point that public universities are subject to the first amendment and therefore are bound by different and stricter rules than hotels or corporations when it comes to regulating speech. I did not say that public universities cannot regulate at all.

As to your hypo, Doe v. Michigan, 721 F. Supp. 852 (E.D. Mich 1989) would suggest that the student's comments would be protected.

Tyler overstated the case by saying [public] universities can act just as corporations can. However, the mechanisms to stifle speech at a public university are manifold and exceed the reach of the first amendment, much as people may wish otherwise.

I spent three years as something of a provocateur at a top public law school. Calls for my expulsion were (mostly) ignored; however, I received a letter from the Dean at one point, expressing that though he could not kick me out, my behavior was a fair matter for consideration by the state bar. It's a question of moral fitness, you see!

If as a practical matter you think the First Amendment will protect Ed in the example, I would not recommend you act on that belief.

In class? The professor and the university are entitled to maintain discipline and decorum in the classroom, just as it is maintained in courtrooms and legislatures. OTOH, if the student wrote a letter to the campus newspaper with those sentiments, the university could not punish the first statement, and probably not the second (although probably the wife could bring a libel suit). Possibly the university could punish legally defamatory statements in some fashion.

None of this applies to saying "all lives matter" or dressing as Pocahontas at Halloween. Those activities cannot be punished under any conceivable legal theory or interpretation of the Constitution.

So his opinion is not protected inside the classroom now? Even when he speaks in turn and succinctly?

And libel, you say? I never considered that an opinion about a woman's attractiveness and odor might be a misstatement of objective fact, but perhaps you can direct me to the relevant Volokh post.

Insulting comments about a professor's wife could reasonably be considered disruptive, no matter how calmly they were stated. Statements that someone has bad breath and is overweight would be defamatory if untrue. I don't know if Prof. Volokh has addressed the latter issue, but I went to law school.

So personal insults are off limits, but only to the extent they insult the professor's wife and not the professor himself. And one person's opinion of another's physique and smell is objectively falsifiable before a court. Law is tricky!

I don't know about tricky, but it is complicated, and, to paraphrase Holmes, based on experience not logic.

This whole situation makes me feel like society values the 1st amendment less than the 2nd amendment!

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My own enumerated observations.

1) There is a naive conflation in this thread of "first amendment rights" with "I can say whatever I want, man!" One is simply not the other, public or private university notwithstanding.

2) Tyler's first reaction to this was to note that the published complaints of one of the aggrieved Yale students read like bad right-wing satire. Of course it's ridiculous, but my own surprise was at Tyler's surprise. How far do you imagine one would have to click around at George Mason University's homepage before finding a celebration of diversity? (Hint: not far!). Every university must pay tribute, and any slight affront to that celebration will be hit with the fire hose.

3) This post I view as Tyler's hedge: these students are upset, and surely there must be legitimate beef for students to carry on so. We must respect their grievances, regardless of the apparent inanity. My own opinion is that human youth have a biochemical disposition toward rebellion. Sometimes these impulses align with real grievances (Tienanman, Kent State, etc), and sometimes they grasp at whatever imagined insult there is, because real insults escape them. We shouldn't have to pretend all complaints are equal.

4) It is fascinating and scary to watch liberal institutions be eviscerated by the very people they've spent decades battling for. If Yale is part of a vast white conspiracy to suppress blacks, imagine what the rest of the world holds.

Translation: Prof. Tyler Cowen would prefer to avoid social ostracism in the faculty rathskellar. This is particularly manifest in points #1, #2, and #3. We know perfectly well that Mr. Christakis was subject to unconscionable verbal abuse over nothing much, among other things. As for #2, both species of higher education have contractual obligations which limit their discretion and the sort of disputes you have which organizations like FIRE are involved in commonly concern viewpoint discrimination. As for #3, no one believes this outside certain little bubbles. And, of course, why administrators wish to regulate speech and what sort of speech they wish to regulate goes unaddressed in these thoughts.

Unimpressive performance overall. Libertarians are not your friend.

AD,

+1

"Libertarianism" has degenerated "let's be nice to the left" feel-good advocacy. A generation ago, Libertarians advocated unpopular things because they believed in them (for example abolishing the welfare state). No we have PC-Libertarians.

Disappointing post from Tyler, which doesn't address what I think is the real story here: the power of small, radical left groups to dictate what is and isn't acceptable speech or activity on college campuses. Yale's president abjectly apologized to the entire student body because a mid-level administrator stated that the university maybe shouldn't get too involved in policing Halloween costumes. Does anyone think he would apologize to some conservative Christians if they complained about Halloween mocking their religious beliefs or whatever? I think that's a big deal, but Tyler just says well we don't know the details and now football teams might have less clout.

Tyler's fourth point is particularly silly. If his hypothetical issue isn't debated, it won't be because universities are afraid of people's feelings being hurt. It will be because the far left will be outraged that someone might argue against their position. Universities indulge in every sort of far left silliness, but administrators rarely take action to protect the feelings or create safe spaces for those on the right. Only conservative speakers have their invitations withdrawn or their events cancelled.

Just as I don't think every university should be Bob Jones U, I also don't think it's a good idea for every university to be Oberlin. But that's where we are. I think state universities in particular should be wary of becoming too left wing, lest the taxpayers in those states decide that maybe they don't need to fund an army of Ta-Nehisi Coateses. I think these are the real issues here, and I wish Tyler would give his thoughts on that. But hey, it's his blog.

Maybe you should go meet some actual radical left people. Get some perspective. Now they won't necessarily have Waffle Houses in the places you need to go, but I think you can survive.

Been there, done that. They are a bunch of insular, close-minded, political bigots. Indeed, far worse close up than they seem at a distance. The kind of social banishment they practice on outsiders is just as virulent within their own little groups. Among the things that might get you banished are, for example, suggesting that perhaps JFK wasn't killed by a CIA conspiracy, or that maybe 9/11 wasn't justified by America's history of violent oppression of Muslims and/or support for Israel. (i.e. they get even crazier and more radical the closer you get to them).

I appreciate the Waffle House comment for its comic value, but you do realize that it works exactly against your own point, right?

Leftists are nothing if not oblivious to their own prejudices.

"Leftists are nothing if not oblivious to their own prejudices."

+1. The commentor is too steeped in his own biases to even realize the obvious bigotry in his post.

Why? Are they dumber and more bigoted than you?

Leave Britney alone!

Yeah! Why won't Tyler speak truth to power ... ful 19 year old kids without tenure, political positions, newspapers columns, or guns.

I guess the ability to get anyone fired is not power in your book, nor is money, social status or privilege

Is this an imposter? Or if not, why would you think this kind of comment would help you/your position?

You must have some powerful gaydar. But I guess it's necessary for men looking for men in Moscow.

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1. Inaccurate media: Yes, but most of the inaccuracies will overstate the amount of name calling against/harassment of protected groups. There very little chance that these groups really endure more than stories suggest (both because of media bias and because they get to tell their own stories) and a high chance few group members ever endure anything outside their own imaginations. Also: chance that a significant percentage of the incidents reported are hoaxes approaches 100%. And Tyler knows this.

3. Can harm students: Assertions of disputable fact need links to high-quality research. I've seen some low-quality work that tries to prove this, but it's pretty laughable (and frankly I don't blame it given what an impossibly difficult thing this would be to demonstrate one way or the other). The assertion may be true, of course, but there's simply no way to assert this.

I could go through the others, but there are two really big issues:

a. People's lives should not be ruined by the (genuinely) offensive things they say when they're any age, but certainly not 20 years old (and intoxicated). If someone insults you, the way to deal with it is to insult him back and then laugh with your friends about what a jackass he is. It's not to inform on him like an East German running to the police.

b. This larger trend to prohibit speech is going to have a huge chilling impact on serious research into and discussion of many of the most important issues that face our very diverse society. It reduces rather than increases the chance that we will ever come to terms with the group differences that upset us so much, reduces the chance for genuine tolerance among people with different values and reduces the chance that the US will still rank among the best places to live in 50 years time.

It's a big deal.

Great comment Scoop. Disappointed in the way Tyler has been so...diplomatic on this.

These fracases aren't caused by honest concerns over racial treatment. Protesters have a myriad of otherwise normal internal anxieties and angers and jealousies. These protest movements have found a way to take arbitrary internal problems and channel them into public power grabs and infamy.

Note that even when the protesters successfully oust arbitrary university presidents and administrators, get their public apologies, and have their outrageous demands catered to, they aren't happy and grateful and no problems are solved, it fuels more protests. The whole thing is absurd.

To abandon ideas of free speech just because an institution is not covered by the 1st Ammendment is to ignore the possibility that the 1st Ammendment might have been a good idea.

In this case, the institution is being asked to censor speech by a self-appointed crowd. Being asked to do _anything_ in such a fashion should bring quotes like “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute” to mind.

Here are some general reasons for allowing free speech that could be considered - no doubt other commenters could improve this:

They might be right.
They might be right next time.
It's easier to point out where they are wrong if you let them have their say.
We let them have their say so that we can have ours.
Deciding what people can and can't say quickly turns into a big deal. Once you have silenced somebody, you start giving implict backing to those you don't silence, and you create a precedent that restricts what you can and can't allow later, unless you are prepared to be obviously unfair. This makes it much harder to change your mind, and thereby admit that you were wrong. Each succeeding statement becomes a question to you; do you censor this or not? and there is no way to duck that decision.... and so on.
People receive undue attention for their views, not because those views have any special merit, but because the speakers are reckless enough, or just stupid enough, to break the rules.
It is difficult, using rules and bureaucracies, to target all and only the speech that you believe is dangerous. You could end up having to prosecute people for reflex swearing, slips of the tongue, and ambiguous statements maliciously misinterpreted by others, while genuinely dangerous people gather power and followers by using coded phrases and circuitous language to stay just within the law.
If you do succeed in drawing up laws that target all and only the speech that you believe is dangerous, you should still worry whether the people who have to keep these laws interpret them correctly. A law that attempts to outlaw only a small amount of truly dangerous speech may in fact have a general chilling effect on all speech except the utterly banal.

The "idea" of the 1st amendment is that the nascent federal government shouldn't establish a church, put in place prior restraints on speech, prevent people from assembling or petitioning, or infringe on the free exercise of religion. It takes no position on whether or not the states ought to do so much less private institutions. In fact it is pretty clear in at least one instance (establishing churches) the idea was very much for private parties to do so.

This spirit of the first amendment mumbo jumbo is the kind of thing of shaky reasoning I expect from Justice Kennedy waxing poetic about the sweet mysteries of life.

Accusing your enemies of being like Justice Kennedy is probably not that insulting

It is to anyone who has actually had to read through that crap.

All the people arguing about Universities right to regulate speech are completely missing the point. In all of these instances the Universities DON'T want to regulate speech, it's the particular groups of students that do. We're talking about certain left-wing student activists protesting against Universities and demanding they do more to regulate the speech of other students.

Nonetheless the universities are capitulating, and professors and administrators who don't play along are being pushed to apology and resignation. I can only imagine the hamster wheels of conflict happening inside the skulls of left-leaning university leaders.

The only correct response to the students in many of these instances is a diplomatically worded version of "Get f*cked."

The protesters are going to win on campus, and lose big time off campus. They've surrendered the moral high ground, and shown that it's actively dangerous to admit anyone who is part of the "diversity left" into your organization. Consider two job candidates: one can get you fired for a stray comment, and the other cannot. A rational, amoral hiring manager will pick the latter every time. This does NOT help minorities.

Having participated in the civil rights movement carries a lot of status in our society. People of all colors brag about it often. A second (third? Fourth?) movement creates opportunity to be "on the right side of history". (And I'm not mocking them, I am suggesting though that some of them are opportunists.)

TC probably should have gone with his first instinct...."This topic feels over-covered by other sources..."...and skipped it.

Not all "civil right movements" are the same. Being fascist doesn't seem to me a sure bet to be "on the right side of history".

Well I guess it is a good thing that corporativism is so out of style then.

Well, everything is relative...

#8. Abolish the NCAA.

#9. Abolish all remediation programs run by all post-secondary institutions. (if incoming freshmen or transfer students require remediation, they can pick up their coursework elsewhere, since colleges and universities themselves have no good business running or managing such programs.)

Why, students needing remediation classes pay tuition same as everyone else? Or are colleges and universities something other than businesses?

Because colleges and universities are businesses run with excessive administrative and staffing costs, to say nothing of tuition costs themselves, ANYONE but colleges and universities themselves has business running a business offering pre-college remediation coursework.

Remediation programs have no business being a part of what colleges and universities offer, even if that makes life difficult for inter-collegiate athletic programs, even if alumni associations howl until they're purple, even if students find their post-secondary admissions delayed.

"Remediation programs have no business being a part of what colleges and universities offer..."

Isn't that up to the customers to decide?

If a coffee shop elects not to serve espresso, espresso drinkers will be compelled to find their espresso elsewhere.

Dropping metaphors altogether: if our primary and secondary schools were actually performing the jobs they're tasked with, over 40% of US post-secondary freshman would not need to enroll in remediation programs. (If foreign transfer students need remedial coursework, they can avail themselves of programs in their native countries or contract with independent and/or for-profit institutions and businesses in the US.)

Allowing US colleges and universities to operate their own remediation programs has come to mean that post-secondary institutions have acclimated themselves to accepting the failures perpetrated by US primary and secondary schools. Were this deemed unacceptable, ALL incoming freshmen would arrive on ALL post-secondary campuses ready for the rigors of post-secondary studies. Until and unless US colleges and universities shed their remediation programs entirely and utterly, the acceptance of academic failure will remain normative in the US primary and secondary education "system".

If the students are angry, why don't they just leave? There are plenty of other universities.

If a restaurant treats me sh-tty, poor service, etc., I don't go back there. I find another place to eat.

That all said, if I were the President of Missouri, I would not have resigned. Make them fire me, unless they make me an offer to resign that I won't refuse.

WHOOPS! I did leave this out by mistake:

#10. Devise Jocularity Inventory or Risibility Quotient sections for leading standardized test instruments like the ACT and the SAT to ascertain that matriculating students actually possess working senses of humor: the current crop of undergrads displays soul-killing seriousness that might have debarred them from post-secondary admissions had suitable measurements been taken. (Maybe the next four graduating classes [undergraduates, graduate students, and post-grads alike] in all US institutions can still be assessed properly prior to graduation.)

1) The students are a source of funding for the University System. Furthermore, a lawsuit from a student is a painful thing to be avoided. Thus, the University System has evolved to minimize students leaving the campus. Administrators and faculty who cause students to leave will not reach positions of power, and furthermore, the very qualities that are looked for in hiring must have evolved to eliminate potentially revenue-reducing administrators at the outset.
Compare this to a company, where cursing can get you fired and 'occupying' can get you arrested and ruin your career.
2) At the same time, since everyone is now subject to the internet mob, everyone has to be on their toes. Faculty, being out of their teens and early 20's, realize this and will further moderate their behavior with occasional exceptions. Students are not as good at self-control. This gives students even more control over the situation in the short term, even if the occasional student ruins her life because of it.
3) Students need to be challenged severely and get used to fully robust debate. At the same time, I can't help but believe that videotaping a 19 year old kid yelling and screaming about safe-spaces - as stupid as the kid is being - results in way too much punishment for the kid. I'd rather have the kid arrested and/or suspended for a semester than have her name splattered all over the internet. Maybe we really need a safe-to-say-whatever-the-hell-you-want-without-being-videotaped-and-have-your-life-ruined space on campuses.

To sum up, perhaps a goal state is having administrators that exercise greater control over students and be much more willing to punish kids for misbehavior, combined with protections for those same kids as far as off-campus repercussions. i.e., what happens in Mizzou/Yale stays at Mizzou/Yale. I have no idea how to get there.

Can we just say what this really is? Dumb as s**t 18-20 year olds, being dumba** as s**t 18-20 year olds.

You can argue all day long about their right to do this and that, but at the end of the day, it's also important to acknowledge that these are dumba** kids and no adult should be paying attention to what they're saying.

That's mostly undisputed. The real issue is how and why those shrieking tots have some of the country's most powerful institutions groveling before them. There's a level of rot and fear that goes way above any particular class of cranky kids.

"That’s mostly undisputed."

I would hope so. I just wanted to make sure it was said.

As to why, I would think its because universities are very risk averse and are responding in the same way that most companies would to such pressure.

They are adults and should be treated as such. The infantiliztion of adults should stop. The infantilization of kids should stop too, really. Does helicopter parenting contribute to this?

I have grave doubts that these people will calm down after they graduate from college.

So in addition to being conveyor-operated rape factories, colleges are apparently racist rackets where the Ku Klux Klan is permitted to operate freely. So tear these uneconomic, dysfunctional institutions down, and legal adults can find what ways they can to acquire marketable skills.

Diversity means we don't get to have nice things.

"I thus believe many administrators overinvest in political correctness" - boy there's the biggest understatement of the last 30+ years of higher education in the US of A.

Excellent points on #1 and #7. The various spin machines now run 24/7/365, and they run on the dark, tribal underside of human nature.

For example, remember Pop-Tart Boy?* Oh, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad zero-tolerance school administrators! Can they not tell the difference between a Pop-Tart and a gun???

[*] A kid who got suspended from school for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun.

Until...his family contested the suspension. Which a hearing examiner upheld. And then both Anne Arundel County's Board of Education and the Maryland State Board of Education agreed.

And it came to light:

(1) The kid had been in trouble all the time, pretty much on an every week if not every day basis, and school administrators had done everything they could to work with him.

(2) He knew what he was doing. He said something like "Look, I have a gun!" And then "shot" other kids at their desks.

(3) And out in the hallway.

(4) Just a couple of months after Sandy Hook.

So take the f*cking pop tart away, genius

...and say "try again, kid, that pop tart isn't fooling anybody."

I believe #2 is imprecisely stated- while "there is no infringement of freedom of speech when a university acts in this manner" is referring the 1st amendment right to free speech, restrictions against free speech are an infringement of freedom of speech in the broader sense, irrespective of whether they are unconstitutional. As you say, in #4 it is a limitation of the function of universities to move against free speech, so overall this is something to fight, and the very concept of making it a violation to fight it is insidious and disgusting.

There are millions of tweets and new stories about some silly Starbucks scandal (not enough Jesus on the cups). Can we please act like sensitivity, feelings and safe space are exclusively the domain of the left? An entire Republican debate centered on conservative victimization by the media, and two hours of bitching and complaining. We have a presidential candidate who thinks the Constitution doesn't apply to Muslims.

At least the communications professor apologized and recognized her actions were wrong. At least there are a bunch of people on the left calling out the illiberal tendencies of the college students. At least the college students have the excuse of being 20 year old idiots.

What's the excuse for our Republican leaders? Who on the right is holding them accountable?

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