The real threats to free speech on campus

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is an excerpt:

…being at a state school is hardly a guarantee of tolerance. Teaching at a state university does widen the scope of what a professor can say without being fired. But ongoing student protests or unfavorable treatment from colleagues can make continued employment so unpleasant that a person simply decides to leave. In my experience, most professors aren’t in it for the money — rather, they love their work. Loving your work is a gift that can be taken away rather easily, regardless of whatever formal legal protections there may be.

Or consider the position of a student. You might have the legal right to start a pro-Trump group on campus. But you might be dissuaded from doing so if you fear your professors would respond by writing you mediocre letters of recommendation.

What really matters on campus is what the most obstreperous participants in these debates consider to be acceptable behavior and speech, and how far they will take their protests. These individuals are usually those with relatively little to lose from strident behavior, and perhaps some local status to gain. They may be students, or they may not; they can be student counselors, or faculty members, or even low-level university bureaucrats.

I explain in the piece why my own university, George Mason, has been strong in this regard.  And I am not crazy about the new proposed Trump executive order:

The relevant troublemakers are hardly ever university administrators. Yet they would inevitably become entangled in any tighter federal free-speech regulations. I have found such administrators to be pragmatic and able to see multiple sides of an issue, even if I do not always agree with their stances. Their primary goal is usually to get the rancor and protests to go away, so the business of the university can return to normal. Placing more constraints on their behavior could actually weaken their hand — by limiting their ability to mollify unruly student groups, for instance.

The full piece offers several additional arguments of note, so do read the whole thing.  Here is my conclusion:

I’m all for free speech, whether for public or private schools. But the fight has to be won in the hearts and minds of students and workers, not by the federal government.


'Yet they would inevitably become entangled in any tighter federal free-speech regulations.'

As Eugene Volokh or Ken White have been tirelessly attempting to explain for years, there is essentially no such thing as 'federal free-speech regulations' thanks to the 1st Amendment.

Yes, there are some exceptions - the Hatch Act (mainly a Republican effort in opposition to Roosevelt) comes to mind, as does the FCC (more of a Democratic effort spearheaded by Roosevelt) in terms of broadcast media.

The colleges created the problem. They actively collude with the left to stifle free speech and now they complain about an effort to restore free speech. The colleges have become a hotbed of Marxist/socialist activism. Most Americans oppose this. That is why the colleges stifle free speech so that they can continue their anti-American activism unfettered. Simply put the left's ideas are so bad that they feel compelled to prevent any open discussion of them. Free speech is a civil right and preventing it is in fact criminal.

'The colleges created the problem.'

No, state universities are subject to the 1st Amendment, and they have not created any problems.

'and now they complain about an effort to restore free speech'

The 1st Amendment has not been superseded, and thus there is no need to 'restore' something that has not been lost.

If you have anything other than comic level complaints, the ACLU is more than willing to help you out. 'The First Amendment to the Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Restrictions on speech by public colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. Such restrictions deprive students of their right to invite speech they wish to hear, debate speech with which they disagree, and protest speech they find bigoted or offensive. An open society depends on liberal education, and the whole enterprise of liberal education is founded on the principle of free speech.'

As Tyler stated, the students need to value free speech. They do not. Why? Because professors of post-modernism and it's progeny have passed this nonsense on to students, who in turn become teachers, social workers, NGO employees, and government employees where they can spread this nonsense.

So, yes, it is the fault of universities and their sjw professors, human resource departments, and diversity directors. They are rotten to the core.

On the contrary, public universities are indeed part of the problem. They have been slapped down countless times by the courts or been pressured by the tireless efforts of Prof. Volokh, FIRE, etc. who expose their despicable attempts (usually instigated by adminicritters) to stifle free speech.

Wait, public universities lose whenever they attempt to stifle speech, so this means what? That any attempt to stifle speech at a public university fails, apparently, which would not seem to be make an institution unable to actually stifle free speech part of the problem.

That some people are naturally attracted to censorship is indisputable. That has been true throughout history, however thanks to the 1st Amendment, those attracted to censorship are losers. Which, of course, is as it should be.

Yeah, my rural, Deep South directional university sure is a hotbed of Marxism. And universities like mine are the rule, not the exception.

That is good news.

We need to do something about Chinese funded groups that infiltrate our universities and harass Taiwanese, Tibetan, and Uiyghur students. They are all Marxists who seek only to silence speech. They spy on other students and send intel on them back to the mother ship. They are also trying to steal our technologies created in our schools and paid for by our tax dollars.

How about Koch funded groups that infiltrate our Universities, although I agree with what you are saying. You might ask, though, whether it is dangerous for the Chinese to have their students exposed to tolerance and free speech, and see the exercise of political democracy rather than stifling authoritarian rule.

Given your first statement, it seems you have the same fear for American students.

I thought the Trump plan was a waste of time. Then you read something by Bill and you realize how many in this country do hate free speech. Bill claims to be a professor. No wonder college campuses across the country are failing.

Indeed, Bill appears to be taking the side of the Communist government in their Right to harass Chinese students.

The Koch’s are the absolute worst. Shame on them for promoting the right of free association, free speech, free thought, and free markets.

When they infiltrate universities, the dream of a social justice-endless politics-endless regulation-endless control-endless thought control dies a slow death. It is much better to fight the Koch brothers and support a political dictatorship run through the dream of social justice-direct democracy-mob rule!!!!

The Kochs don't push for freedom. That's the marketing. The reality is they push for poverty for the many and benefits for the few. See the Wisconsin Foxconn deal that gave tax breaks to foreign corporations while the seizing land from Americans through eminent domain to make room for the plant. All bought and paid for by the Kochs.

You’re wrong. Koch opposes corporate welfare at every level. You’re either not paying attention or lying on purpose.

Stop Brazil! It has become a satellite of China.

"What really matters on campus is what the most obstreperous participants in these debates consider to be acceptable behavior and speech, and how far they will take their protests."

Jon Haidt notes that he no longer teaches to a "reasonable student" standard, but rather a "most sensitive student" standard.

I'm a bit less charitable to administrators than you are. As has been pointed out somewhat recently (to considerable and disturbing controversy), administrators tend to lean left even more so than faculty. Lyell Asher has a new (and long) post on Quillette discussing the role education schools have played. My own university is very content to acquiesce to the demands of the outrage-prone, although it's not clear to me if that's because they share roughly the same worldview, or if they just want them to shut up like you say.

And also-

“Their primary goal is usually to get the rancor and protests to go away, so the business of the university can return to normal. “

Which means left wing students must be appeased. No appeasement, no peace.

I always find it amusing when professors realize that they're just employees, and students are the customers.


People go into debt to pay for university. Students as customers see the university as tool for a high-paying job.

This expectation is not completely wrong. But there are nice customers and entitled customers. I think the entitled are the ones causing trouble.

Totally agree. From my own experience, only a fraction of students are interested in the classic "broadening of the mind" liberal arts education, while most are in school to get the accreditation of having gone to school. Those interested in accreditation are very aware of the dollar value of their time on campus (or rather, very perceptive of when that dollar isn't being well spent). The professors seem to view the priorities as inverted, probably because they were in the latter camp as students

Reflect on the conservative student that got sucker punched, and then Trump, introducing a federal order for universities to permit free speech, introduced him on stage, had him say few words, and then said "He took a punch for all of us."

The primary mechanism that universities use to shut down free speech is that that, as with Milo's talks, Universities allow thugs of one political persuasion to do as they please.

Or maybe we should just have gulags to drag them to.

That's exactly what the Left would prefer.

Hayden Williams is a "conservative activist", not a student at Berkeley, The guy who punched him was also not associated with the university. Why is it the university's problem?

hostile work environment
it happened on their property

Clearly, they need a wall.

if only there was mebbe a legal wall
between free speech
and inciting/causing violence
oh wait there is one

Before Thiago says "such is life in Trump's Amerika", let it be noted for the record that it's always been like this.  America is founded on a basis of uncompromising morality。
A Russellian solution for your consideration: Bloated University administration announces that henceforth acquiesence will be paid to the group that is most offended and outraged. And will be updated on an hourly basis.
Hypothesis to be tested: opposing groups will eventually get tired of screaming pointlessly and gradually see some merit to compromise or live and let live within certain mutually tolerable limits.

My point is, I can not imagine Brazilians living (and worse, enforcing) such a totalitarian system as seems to be the prevailing one in America, where people fear their fellow citizens, as if they were Stasi informants or a SS Sturmbannführer. Why don't you overthrow your oppressors?

Can you imagine 1964-1985?
I adore Brasil (lived there 1997-2008) but come on Thiago, be real.

Barbara Uehling laid the groundwork at Mizzou in the 70’s and later elsewhere for the ugly attacks on reason we see today. That termite work long went unnoticed; thanks to the Faustian bargain agreed to by alums that promised athletic prowess in return for abandoning the education contemplated by those who set up the school a century and a half ago. When athletics failed, the alumni finally noticed the rot; whereupon the termites launched their counterattack. The same thing is now unfolding everywhere. Best to burn it all down and rebuild. The termite, like the scorpion, cannot change its nature.

The only problem I had at Mizzou in the 70s was the feminist who freaked out in a class when I tried to defend Turnabout Intruder -- you know, the Star Trek where the crazy chick takes over Kirk's body so she can finally command a starship.

I should make clear we were both students, and the instructor fully encouraged our little contretemps, possibly thinking what a cute couple we'd make.

As far as I recall, the main rights issue back then was finding someone over 21 to make the beer run

I can not imagine Brazilian professors and students one another. More and more, America looks like a totalitarian dystopia.


Another verb had crossed my mind

I see your point. Such is life in Trump's America.

"Teaching at a state university does widen the scope of what a professor can say without being fired."

Is this because free speech laws or because the students of state universities are less entitled? I tried to find research on this but it seems no one has been brave enough to publish an article comparing academic entitlement in public compared to private universities.

Professors in the 90s were worried about student consumerism. Students think professors are responsible for their attentiveness in class. Students pay, students want to be entertained and protected. "Equating good teaching with a widespread feeling among students that the instructor has met their consumerist expectations ignores the dynamics of teaching and prevents significant learning."'re_the_Customer-We_Pay_the_Tuition_Student_Consumerism_among_Undergraduate_Sociology_Majors/links/5722606b08aef9c00b7c8092.pdf

Things only got worse with the growth in debt fueled university education. The customer-driven culture took hold of universities. I remember filling out surveys evaluating our professors 20 years ago.

Student consumerism is not new. What may have changed is that students from 20-30 years ago wanted inflated scores and a title to get a high-paying job......i'm totally projecting here =). Universities and professors had no trouble accommodating to that request.

Years pass and customer preference changes. Now the customers demand political correctness and professors don't know how to react. The issue here is not free speech, but student consumerism. Tyler is looking at the symptom, not at the cause of the illness.

'Is this because free speech laws'

There are essentially no 'free speech laws' in the U.S. apart from the 1st Amendment - 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.'

I recognize that for people unfamiliar with just how radical the American Constitution truly is, the idea of laws concerning free speech seems at least reasonable. This is very different from any European concept of free speech, where the idea of laws involving regulating speech is fully commonplace. That Prof. Cowen seems a bit confused on this point - several of Prof. Volokh's fellow conspirators are member of GMU and/or the Mercatus Center - is a bit surprising, particularly when writing a column.

The 1st Amendment always applies to government institutions, including state universities, meaning that those institutions are not allowed to use content based restrictions on speech, as an exceedingly long list of court decisions has clearly demonstrated. Of course, a private university, just like a private web site or private public policy institute, can use any standards it wishes to promote or restrict speech.

'Tyler is looking at the symptom, not at the cause of the illness.'

Not precisely, at least from an American perspective. I have never talked to a single European (this would include Irish, UK, Italian, Dutch, and French citizens, not just Germans) who actually agrees with what the 1st Amendment means in practice, at least during my lifetime. That so many Americans, particularly younger ones - including a number of commenters here - seem to feel that the 1st Amendment should not apply any longer is deeply disturbing to anyone proud of one of the greatest achievements in human history, which is the Bill of Rights.

Agree with you here.

"The 1st Amendment always applies to government institutions, including state universities, meaning that those institutions are not allowed to use content based restrictions on speech, as an exceedingly long list of court decisions has clearly demonstrated. "

From my admittedly limited experience, working for many years as a low-level employee at a public library, any utterance connected to "politics" was strictly enjoined, and grounds for firing. Thus from my POV the truth of the above statement may be weighted much more to the "long list of court decisions" than to the actual employee code of conduct at some public institutions.

This was never a problem for me, being a matter of courtesy - practically the first plank of my natural conservatism, and long habit of keeping my thoughts closely-held at all times IRL in any case, self-protectively - but it sometimes caused grumbling among my co-workers, with their very different and more personal "politics."

'working for many years as a low-level employee at a public library'

This broadly falls under the framework of the Hatch Act, as noted in my very first comment. You are welcome to weigh the costs and benefits of that act in terms of free speech, but it is an attempt to keep public employees from being involved in politics at their workplace. In part to prevent taxpayers paying for someone to espouse political beliefs during the time they are acting in a role that has nothing to do with politics.

The military has a similar prohibition in terms of political activity, though it is based on a considerably different framework, starting with civilian control of the military, and the fact that insubordination is punishable speech.

Thanks, I'll read that. I'm sure it's entirely sensible and salutary, though less sure it entirely escapes the label of "free speech regulation."

The Hatch Act is an area where people can reasonably disagree, though being employed by the government is a voluntary act. The same logic applies to the military, in a very broad sense, however as noted, the military has a different framework.

Anyone who is in the federal civil service is very familiar with the Hatch Act, and it is a reason why the federal work force is not actually involved in politics in a 'political' sense, most particularly during their work time.

It pretty much prevents government employees from being paid by taxpayers to foist their political beliefs on those taxpayers during work time, and is further intended to prevent anyone in a position of authority in the government from directing their employees to support any single explicit political position.

The history is pretty straightforward, even if the Hatch Act might not have quite passed muster among the Founders - who admittedly were extremely unlikely to have imagined the vast number of federal employees by the 1930s.

And I should add that, my co-workers had only themselves to blame - they might have gone across town to work in other libraries where politicking (or in the contemporary term, Resistance) would have been an expected part of the job. I'd be remiss if I left the impression that urban libraries on the whole are keen to be neutral content providers and not publicly-funded advocacy organizations. The place where I worked just had a director who preferred a certain careful way of interacting with the public. Unsurprisingly, she was least successful at muzzling the old-lady volunteers, many of whom had no filter. Indeed, now that I think about it there perhaps need to be different free-speech dispensations for men and women, and for women at different stages of their lives ...

Good to see your wholehearted admiration and devotion to the Bill of Rights, which I share.

I agree the phrase "free speech laws" is incorrect. I think people are referring to the so-called "speech codes" that have been promulgated at many colleges and universities, promising various kinds of disciplinary action for speech deemed disparaging to certain favored groups. As Tyler implies, whether these would stand up in court is not the point; most students won't want to subject themselves to the expense and other downsides of becoming a test case, and so they self-censor. Similar rationale applies to trying to fight the heckler's veto.

But this is where it seems to me Trump was heading: it may be possible for the federal government to step in on the side of free speech, by reducing or denying federal funds to colleges and universities that have these anti-free-speech codes and/or permit the heckler's veto to reign supreme. Supporting more free speech seems like a worthwhile endeavor to me.

Ack, this should have been in response to clockwork_prior...

'to the so-called "speech codes"'

Which are also somewhat a grey area, at least if one views them as codes of conduct. One may have a 1st Amendment to shout for an hour in a given situation, but one does not have a 1st Amendment right to shout for an hour in a classroom, regardless of the content of the shouts.

'most students won't want to subject themselves to the expense and other downsides of becoming a test case'

The ACLU would be happy to do the legal work for free when it is apparent that the code applies to speech. As for other downsides, well, yes, standing up for free speech often seems to come with a cost.

'it may be possible for the federal government to step in on the side of free speech'

Governments never step in on the side of free speech, they only step in on the side they feel provides leverage to further a government's - or politician's - goals.

'Supporting more free speech seems like a worthwhile endeavor to me.'

It certainly does, which is the federal government should never be in a position to decide which free speech deserves support and which doesn't.

Here is a 1st Amendment example that is not really about free speech, though it is fascinating to see how those who claim 1st Amendment protection for their beliefs reject granting those protections to those who do not share those beliefs - 'Members of the Satanic Temple were at it again this week, stirring up unrest and stoking religious sensibilities and demanding Arkansas legislators give their Baphomet statue the same equal access to Capitol grounds as a monument of the Ten Monuments [sic] .... But just because the Satanic Temple has been entirely subversive about exploiting America’s First Amendment to include displays of abominations, masked as religion, doesn’t mean the citizenry — the ones offended at this brash deviation of Founding Father intent — is entirely defenseless. Satanists may be demanding placement of an 8-1/2 foot tall bronze statue of Baphomet on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds to “support the First Amendment and religious plurality,” as Marine Glisovic with the local KATV reported. .... Rep. Jason Rapert, responding to the satanists’ plans, said in a Facebook post that yes, while the likes of Satanic Temple members — “outsiders,” from out-of-state — have the right to come to Arkansas to uplift “the profane,” the citizens of the state have their rights, as well.

He wrote: “The Constitution also protects the rights of the people to elect legislators to govern on their behalf, with their consent. The legislature carried out the will of the citizens of Arkansas when it overwhelmingly approved Act 1231 of 2015. State legislators responded to the will of Arkansans by passing the Arkansas Ten Commandments Monument Act and our Governor signed the bill into law.”'

Want guess how that article ends? - 'Arkansas may be facing an attack of abominations with the snarky special interests of the Satanic Temple. But right will eventually make might. All it needs is faith and those with courage to draw a line in the sand and make clear, hey, this is a boundary that cannot be crossed. Never quit, never give in, never cede the fight.'

Never let a government decide in such matters, because it will never support the sort of revolutionary clarity that marks the 1st Amendment prohibitions against government having power over speech and religion.

Why does the US "free speech on campus" culture war never cover private religious colleges which enforce authoritarian politics and conduct on their student body? Institutions like Liberty University and BYU exercise far more power over intellectual debate and the personal lives of young people than generic and annoying campus activists do.

The more I read about America, the more it seems to be an Orwellian country.

'never cover private religious colleges'

Because as private institutions, they are fully free to regulate speech however they wish. And mainly because it is a dog bites man story - everyone is fully aware of how private religious colleges are not encouraging fully free debate, but instead are often interested in restricting it - even if accreditation requirements for programs like biology or geology do not allow such universities to only teach young earth creationism, while banning discussion of any other perspective.

"Because as private institutions, they are fully free to regulate speech however they wish. "

Only insofar as they don't accept federal monies. But mostly we don't hear about these private religious colleges are small and few in number -- accounting for tiny percentage of U.S. university students, and because nobody is punching, shouting down, or deplatforming anybody. And because these are not generally places of intellectual intolerance:

In some ways, BYU was a profoundly illiberal place. Nearly every member of the university community — 28,000 students as well as thousands of faculty members and administrators — was a Mormon, the vast majority of them deeply devout. As a non-Mormon, I had almost no chance of having my visiting professorship converted into a tenure-track position. My two-year contract included the requirement that I abide by the university's strict honor code, which mandated that I shave my beard, refrain from uttering curse words, and forswear alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea for the entire duration of my employment.

And yet I was perfectly free to teach whatever I wanted in the classroom. And I did. I taught large introductory lecture courses in ancient, medieval, and modern political thought, including some of the most radical writings of Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx. I also taught advanced seminars on Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. We were free to discuss anything in class, including Nietzsche's suggestion that "God is dead." The only stipulation was that I not personally endorse these views — which was fine with me, since such an endorsement would have been a form of attempted indoctrination and therefore inimical to the liberal education I hoped to impart to my students.

'Only insofar as they don't accept federal monies.'

Sort of - they are still not under the same obligations as a state owned operation. That money comes with strings attached is the sort of thing that does not need to be pointed out here, one assumes.

It is one reason that the Mercatus Center has zero connection with GMU, for example.

And there is a profoundly telling about the difference between BYU and a state university. 'The only stipulation was that I not personally endorse these views' is unenforceable for any institution subject to the 1st Amendment.

(Yes, one can imagine exceptions, such as a military academy where the professor is also a member of the military, but the military is an institution that is treated differently in a number of ways, and not just in terms of free speech.)

There is something to be said here about how a high level of agreement on strict moral conduct leads to a better environment for broad discussion. But at the same time, we also have to build a functioning pluralistic society - that ship has already sailed.

"that ship has already sailed" and then hit an iceberg. Let's be blunt: America's totalitarian impulses go back to Salem Witch Trials.

Intolerance of speech is having a profoundly negative effect on the Republican Party and, with it, the nation. Republicans in Congress live in constant fear of a primary challenge triggered by speech that is contrary to Trumpism or the ideology of extremists in the Party. Republicans suppress speech rather than risk a primary challenge from the right. Besides turning Republican politicians into sycophants, it gives the impression that Republicans, and the nation, are much farther to the right than is actually the case. As Cowen points out, a small but determined and vocal group on campus can suppress speech, but the consequence on campus is minor compared to the consequence in national politics. Worse is the lesson it teaches conservatives (and liberals) on campus: engage in extremist behavior to create a confrontation with individuals with whom they disagree, and use the confrontation to magnify the differences and to draw more attention to extremist views, views that are farther right or left than those of most conservatives (and liberals) on campus. Confrontation works. And it's a lesson that conservatives and liberals take with them beyond the campus in the real world of politics where suppression of speech really matters.

", but the consequence on campus is minor compared to the consequence in national politics"
"it's a lesson that conservatives and liberals take with them beyond the campus in the real world of politics"

So which is it? You're contradicting yourself.

And the idea that Republicans have a speech problem is laughable on it's face. If, as you say, this problem is incubated in academia, and academia is overwhelmingly progressive, then those lessons will be brought into Progressive politics, which is increasingly taking over the Democratic party. Or conversely, just read AOC's Twitter feed. It's seeped in inter sectional lingo and speech policing.

You're delusional.

"And the idea that Republicans have a speech problem".

Can they find a speech therapist?

Just another arrogant stereotype put on the right by people with a sense of inherent entitlement. Being able to speak well doesn't alter the fact that a lot of what is being said by liberals these days is hate-driven and suppressive of fundamental liberties.

Republicans absolutely have a free speech problem. Ask any critic of the War on Terror or Israel. Many Republicans like to say “love it or leave it” against critics of foreign policy or immigration law suggesting these people should not have the right to have their views in America. During the Bush years, there were many cases of foreign speakers being denied visas to come to the US because of their political views, a practice we consider a violation of human rights when China does it. Republicans recently passed a law allowing state governments to retaliate against people who boycott Israel, even though it would be unimaginable for state governments to retaliate against people who boycott any other country. And there is the “Canary Mission,” which openly tries to get employers not to hire anti-Israel students. Or go look at the history of free speech prosecutions that made it to the Supreme Court. Almost all of them were by the right against either socialists or pacifists.

These are instances where bigoted actions, by the state, not by people, are being curtailed. The Canary group is a private group, so you want to curtail their freedom of speech in the name of free speech. How Orwellian/progressive of you.

Wait, there is an anti-boycott group using a boycott to oppose a boycott?

Sounds like a perfect example of free speech in action, assuming of course that the anti-boycott group is not actually opposing boycotting as an action open to all American citizens under the 1st Amendment.

This is nonsense. The Heckler's veto is easily stopped with enforcement of Disturbing the Peace or similar statute, particularly for events held in reserved space. This becomes trivially easy under the law when hecklers seize microphones, prevent egress and entrance, or refuse to vacate reserved spaces.

And let's be honest "mollifying" student "activists" has been done for generations; it is how we got here. Is there a single action by a university to mollifying heckling students that has ever given say four years of campus peace? Certainly when I was in college each concession was simply followed by greater demands. And this should not surprise us; we had protesters have the university concede all their demands and yet they insisted on occupying the administration offices nonetheless so they could say they had done so when applying to grad school.

Policy is actually important for the hearts and minds. A policy of mollification ensures not merely that students will protest, but that the bold students will believe they can go further on to assault, destruction of property, and coercive intimidation.

In a game of signals, policies certainly should be opposed to the most egregious offenders.

Administrators are political creatures and all their incentives point to short term oriented responses.

Another very underused tool that would have great effects: regular expulsions for egregious violations of rules as a part of protesting. Just send them home with a permanent record on a transcript that says they were expelled for hitting a professor they disagreed with. Another school may want to admit them for their "courage," but at least it's not your problem anymore.

'This becomes trivially easy under the law '

For example, like this -

Plenty of details at wikipedia -

Oddly, it does not list the cost of replacing the two seemingly full pepper spray cans on maybe 20 protesters, (looks like each can holds 1 to 2 qts), though million dollar settlement against UC Davis is noted.

Oh please, just arrest the students who refuse to move and decamp them to the local jail. For those who do not warrant arrest, issue fines and be done with them. For those who prevent their fellow students from learning, expel them.

I would have much more sympathy for the powerlessness of the university if we had not witnessed years of administrations expelling students while policing the sexual misadventures of young, drunk coeds.

For students who have committed a crime, one which directly impedes the ability of fellow students to learn, expel them and be done. There is no need to break out weaponry. Certainly paying off these protesters accomplished nothing, less than three years later we had a small riot. All kowtowing to protesters has accomplished is successive payments of Dangeld.

'Oh please, just arrest the students who refuse to move and decamp them to the local jail.'

What do you think basically happened after the pepper spraying, as 10 were arrested. Strangely though, eleven protesters received medical treatment and two were hospitalized. But hey, got break a few eggs, etc.

'There is no need to break out weaponry.'

And yet, it happened. Want other examples? Read here -

For example - 'The same month as the 2009 Wheeler Hall confrontation in Berkeley, campus police at UCLA used tasers and batons on students who disrupted a UC Board of Regents meeting about fee increases.'

'All kowtowing to protesters has accomplished is successive payments of Dangeld.'

Read the article, and see how much it costs after breaking out the weaponry - repeatedly - to make sure that no kowtowing is going on.

Oddly though, incidents like these seem to slip under the campus disturbance narrative radar -

Again, the only thing you are showing is that payouts have been utterly ineffective. Arguing that police officers behave badly is nothing new, but it does not change the core dynamic - we have spent literally decades placating protesters, paying them large sums when they commit crimes and the police response is deemed disproportionate, and we have nothing achieved for it. Learning, as rated by students, is down. Professors say they are able to teach less well. Employers increasingly rate college as less useful at acquiring skills and are requiring ever more degree inflation to get basic competency.

I mean seriously, should we just close up all the abortion providers if enough pro-lifers raise the cost of operating them enough? Enforcing justice is always going to be costly and we do society no favors by allowing an unelected minority to drive policy solely by increasing the risk of violence and financial harm.

'Again, the only thing you are showing is that payouts have been utterly ineffective.'

Sure seems that way - police keep using force, and the universities keep paying out. Almost as if using the police is not an effective tactic.

'we have spent literally decades placating protesters'

Strange how that does not actually seem to apply to universities in California - though it is true that UC Davis did spend a considerable sum years after that incident to clean up its image.

'I mean seriously, should we just close up all the abortion providers if enough pro-lifers raise the cost of operating them enough?'

Seems to be an effective tactic actually, particularly when the pro-lifers are just exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

'Enforcing justice'

Dealing with protesters is always going to be a balancing act, and is not really a question of justice. That many people in a position of power are craven need not be disputed, right? The 1st Amendment protects the rights of protesters too, after all. However, as noted elsewhere, we can all agree that conduct and speech are not the same thing, and clearly much of the problem being discussed relates to conduct, not speech.

You should, and easily can, protest decisions by making your viewpoint known. Campus protesters face little or no barrier to doing this.

When you prevent others from doing the same, be it by chanting them down, blocking their way, or physical violence, you are not engaging in speech. When you elect to cross the line into illegal conduct you should be arrested. When you are being arrested, you should only be the recipient of violence if you actions warrant it. If you are just refusing to leave then you should be cuffed and carried away. If you resist this arrest then you should be expect escalation from the police.

The problem I typically see is that cops don't like going through all the petty steps because they "know" the protesters will not comply and might endanger them. In this day and age, the cops should have a set SOP to begin their own video and escalation (tell them to leave, tell them you will be issuing citations, tell them there will be arrests, tell they they are resisting arrest due to these actions, tell them if they continue to resist arrest then the following actions will be taken).

Will it be expensive to deal with people violating the law thusly? Perhaps. But I dearly do not want to live in a world where whomever can wreak the most havoc has an effectual veto. History shows us that the rich and powerful are far better at violence and destruction than the poor ever will be.

Well this is interesting. Here we have a putative libertarian discovering that overt regulation by an oppressive state overlord is not the sole mechanism that directs human behavior and limits freedom.

Social cues, informal policies, boycotts and binges, mob sentiment, indirect retribution, the words and claims of others... these all play a role.

In fact its messy and sometimes arbitrary and there doesnt seem to be any clear consistent rules.

The libertarian finds himself wishing that someone would, well, make a law, that forces people to act fairly and treat him nicely.

Hey. I wonder if this sort of thing affects commerce, and markets. And employment. And corporate behavior. And land use.

Maybe if we had more rules, people wouldnt be treated unfairly. And those outside the mainstream would feel safer and freer to be themselves without retribution from an unregulated mob, and repressive string pullers...


You read the conclusion entirely backwards.

+1, McMike is responding to the voices in his head, not to anything Tyler actually wrote.

"The libertarian finds himself wishing that someone would, well, make a law, that forces people to act fairly and treat him nicely."

Tyler is actually saying the exact opposite of this. What Tyler actually wrote:

"But the fight has to be won in the hearts and minds of students and workers, not by the federal government."

The cognitive dissonance that Tyler is momentarily aware of is that absent federal intervention, there are still important forces at play, and they seem so illegitimate and gashdarnit unfair to conservatives.

Sure, he mouths the correct platitude, but, like many conservatives and libertarians, after you scratch the surface, they don't mean it.

Conservatives are perfectly wiling to regulate things they don't like.

And Libertarians remain ignorant of any form of power besides government (and markets), and seem completely unable to accept a messy illogical world.

Just person up and admit you didn’t read what Tyler wrote.

No, I read the conclusion as waving off cognitive dissonance with a vague platitude

McMike, people are people, so they will act unfairly whatever system is devised. I prefer the one where the enforcer sends out cops to arrest you.

Err, do NOT prefer that enforcer.

Does that include Klansmen in their hoods, Black Panthers with thier fists, open carry marchers, striking union members, abortion clinic sign-wavers, RNC giant puppet carriers, khaki-clad chad-counting protestors, and Wall Street occupiers?

Or just, perhaps, half of those groups?

Any of them I can shoot if they attack me, so I'll stick by what I said.

Ahhhh, MORE consequences of the Boomer Ascendancy!

Little afflicting the country today that has NOT been authored by the Boomers (which does mean that all the corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment flattery over "the Greatest Generation" of two decades back was little more than . . . Media Establishment flattery).

(Boomers ARE the geniuses who helped abolish lingering notions of "in loco parentis", correct? [Webster's Ninth shows that the Latin term was introduced c. 1828 and that its occultation began c. 1968] --because Boomers saw Latin as useless, I guess . . . ? --or because they themselves matured at such early ages??)

>"I'm all for free speech... but..."

Classic, Ty!

Funny how you want the US Federal Government to solve all of the nation's ills... right up until a conservative gets punched in the face for his political views. On camera. Then suddenly it's Whoa There, Let's Get Philosophical About This.

It's amusing how you are here every day to tear Cowen a new one for positions he doesn't actually hold. You might even have some good criticisms, but they are literally of the wrong person.

I look back on my college years (at an Ivy) as the time in my life when I enjoyed the most free speech, even as someone well to the right of most of the student body. I frequently debated political and social issues with other students and in class. By contrast, in the adult world, one must be far more careful of what one says as the consequences in terms of lost friendships and career advancement are far more severe than in college, where you are meeting new friends constantly and professors can’t do anything worse to you than give you a bad grade. People in college were used to debating politics and other controversial ideas on a daily basis, and so were far less likely to be offended by other viewpoints than people in the “real world”, who rarely if ever debate such ideas. For example, one time I was discussing a local politics issue with a close friend at a restaurant, and the next day I received a note at the office saying that an unidentified colleague had overheard my conversation and felt offended so I should be more careful what I say in public. I never felt so shaken in college due to something I said.

So I find it odd that there is all this focus on free speech on campus from conservatives. I think it would be better to encourage a more tolerant culture generally, particularly among employers. Retaliating against someone for their speech must be stigmatized in all areas of society. This is hard but it will increase free speech on campus too because college students are mostly far more likely to self-censor due to fear of future employers than social justice warriors. And it is more likely to enjoy bipartisan support, as liberals and conservatives are equally susceptible to self-censorship pressure in the real world.

"So I find it odd that there is all this focus on free speech on campus from conservatives"

No it's not. If you view outspoken ideological conservatism as one-part entitlement, two-parts victim pathology, and three-parts psychological projection, it makes perfect sense.

Down in the Dipstick Belt, Republicans are all huffed out over finding themselves the recipients of the outrage machine. So they're gonna pass a law...

That's not a very nice way to talk to someone.

Right to anonymity for children seems reasonable in regards to defamation in the national media, including social media. That shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

The rest of your comment is just the usual partisan vitriol and merits no response.

If you paid attention you would note that this is an anti-doxxing bill, not a childhood privacy bill, and the sandkid's dad's presence was mostly theater and peripheral to the meaning of doxxing.

Dude your reading comprehension is comically bad. From the article and in bold for you:

“Schroder's bill would make it a crime for someone to "dox," or disseminate personal information, about a minor on the internet that could be used to identify someone with the intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass or frighten the individual. Such information includes first and last names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses, school locations and email or telephone numbers, according to SB 240.”

Interestingly, I read the story on my phone and that story did not mention minors at all. It was posted on Fox News. I just went and re-read it to confirm.

The link I posted here I didn't actually read, just grabbed it because it looked similar.

No, you didn’t read any article. Don’t lie to squirm out of a dumber lie.

You staked our your position: “no freedom of speech in universities, and anything children do or say should be a life destroying event for them”

We get it, you psychopath.

You can call me a lot of things
Liar isn't one of them
Try again

What some commenters are referring to free speech (of ideas) on campus is actually confrontation masquerading as free speech. Confrontation has made Milo Yiannopoulos a rock star, not for ideas but just for creating a confrontation with those with different ideas. He is a provocateur not a person of ideas. Ironically, in the 1960s, the provocateurs were on the left not the right, and politicians were not bashful about suppressing their speech, with a bash to the head or time in jail. As for speech in the real world, I have a home in the low country. I don't discuss politics or political philosophy with my neighbors because I would have few if any friends if I did. I suppress my speech because I know I would be ostracized. One cannot imagine the vitriol directed at President Obama (or anyone with whom my neighbors disagree) by people who are otherwise the salt of the earth and would do anything for a neighbor. Of course, Trump's offensive behavior has normalized offensive behavior.

Exactly. Shorter version: conservatives can dish it out but they can't take it.

'So I find it odd that there is all this focus on free speech on campus from conservatives.'

Particularly if one has any memory of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, along with a few more recent decades.

I’m all for ****, whether for public or private schools. But the fight has to be won in the hearts and minds of students and workers, not by the federal government.

What a handy all-purpose argument.

Battling for hearts and minds is precisely why the free speech thing matters so much...

People are great about free speech so long as there’s some supposed authority they can scream at.

It’s like a guy in an apartment who declares his abode holy sacred, and untouchable before the Fire Marshall, then turns and tries to burn down his neighbor’s apartment. Then when the whole building goes up he says “well, the Fire Marshall didn’t stop it, so what can we do?”

Not a very helpful article because most of it is spent criticizing legislation that hasn't been drafted and nothing very useful about how to deal with the problem -- except someone should try to convince those who obstruct that free speech is a good idea.

The relevant troublemakers are hardly ever university administrators.

Oh, yes they are. The obstreperous students are acting with the assent of the administration and doing its dirty work. Ditto in re most of the faculty. That's why this continues.

The voices of 'higher education' will invariably argue that they should be free of any supervision by and accountability to public authority. Give us the money and get lost. They'll also argue in any specific situation that they're achieving optimal performance. Both contentions are fiction.

I'm a pretty creeped out by the concept of an executive order presuming to regulate free speech policies at private institutions.
How the hell is this a power of the executive branch?

It isn't, but then stripping American citizenship from an American who burns an American flag seems to be the sort of action our current president favors, if one believes what he has written on twitter.

Basically, we are apparently now living in the new dawning age of the Emperor-President.

I'm pretty confident that the courts would sneer at this order and quickly set fire to it, so I don't think there's any immediate problem here. What worries me is that Trump's horde of slavish devotees will instantly set to work explaining why the President should have this power, and thus convince themselves that it's an incontrovertible truth that it should be so and make it an article of the new conservative faith.

'I'm pretty confident that the courts would sneer at this order and quickly set fire to it'

I am extremely confident that the Supreme Court would slap such idiocy down in unmistakeable terms.

As for Trump's minority, well, what can one do except hold regular elections and then ignore their whining about how majority rule is unfair to the minority who wants their king to rule America.

I'm a pretty creeped out by the concept of an executive order presuming to regulate free speech policies at private institutions.

Since when did Trump specify private institutions?

They face all kinds of compliance costs. The utility of that for certain factions is that policies of doubtful utility can be advanced with the excuse that receipt of federal aid requires it.

"I'm a pretty creeped out by the concept of an executive order presuming to regulate free speech policies at private institutions.
How the hell is this a power of the executive branch?"

You're familiar with the Title 9 "Dear Colleague" letter from the Obama administration, correct? If so, it would presumably work the same way.

"I'm pretty confident that the courts would sneer at this order and quickly set fire to it, "

The Dear Colleague letter stood until the Trump administration withdrew it. But even though it's been withdrawn most colleges still follow the same policies they effected in response to it.

You do realize that your example, as noted under the headline 'Today marks six years to the day since the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights released the infamous "Dear Colleague" letter obligating universities to investigate sexual assault and harassment' has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment, right?

Totally, and I didn't like that much either. Sexual assault allegations should be directed to the property authority - the police.

Did you have the same view about the Voting Rights Act or laws that prevent intimidation at voting polls?

I was unaware that the Voting Rights Act was an executive order.

When President Eisenhower sent the national guard troops to Little Rock was that a mistake. Or would you have opposed it if it was a private school?

Was LBJ wrong to send the National Guard into Alabama to protect marchers?

When and where does the Federal government have the right to protect speech? Is a President barred from making an executive order to protect the constitutional rights of citizens?

I agree with Trump's general point, although I don't think his plan will work. In part, because Cowen is right, college officials lack the courage to stand up to those who oppose free speech. Courage is rarely found amongst college administrators.

That does not mean that the government can not or should not step in all the time.

Hatred of Trump seems to cause a lot of willful blindness. Still, should I assume that you would support a Voting Rights Act that prevents any group from being prevented from getting out the vote? You support the idea just not an executive order?

Article Two of the United States Constitution gives the president broad executive and enforcement authority to use their discretion to determine how to enforce the law or to otherwise manage the resources and staff of the executive branch. The ability to make such orders is also based on express or implied Acts of Congress that delegate to the President some degree of discretionary power

BTW might check out Eisenhower executive order 10730

Which had nothing to do with the 1st Amendment.

And have you actually read it yourself?

'"WHEREAS certain persons in the state of Arkansas, individually and in unlawful assemblages, combinations, and conspiracies, have wilfully obstructed the enforcement of orders of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas with respect to matters relating to enrollment and attendance at public schools, particularly at Central High School, located in Little Rock School District, Little Rock, Arkansas; and

"WHEREAS such wilful obstruction of justice hinders the execution of the laws of that State and of the United States, and makes it impracticable to enforce such laws by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings; and

"WHEREAS such obstruction of justice constitutes a denial of the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution of the United States and impedes the course of justice under those laws:....'

However, if you have an example of a public university defying the Supreme Court regarding free speech, please do let us know.

I assume funding of colleges is executed by the department of education, which doubtless has wide latitude in rule making and withholding funds for violations. You know, the way the previous administration dictated the standard of evidence that must be used in campus sexual misconduct adjudication.

'which doubtless has wide latitude in rule making and withholding funds for violations'

Not regarding the 1st Amendment, however, as established repeatedly by the Supreme Court.

Confrontations on the college campus that lead to arguments over free speech are clear indications of the actual anti-intellectualism that now pervades higher education. Thoughtful people are able to see and understand the positions of others, even if they don't agree with or accept them. This is the basis of liberal society. Physical confrontation is meant to inspire fear and silence rather than disseminate ideas. There are many examples of this leading to disaster.

Well, there is something of a grey area between speech and intending to cause public disorder, probably best illustrated by this recent non-American example - 'In their letter to Yiannopoulos, the department said protests at his 2017 Melbourne event “involved violence” and injured five police officers.

“Victoria Police issued Mr Yiannopoulos with a bill of $50,000 for the cost of policing his event in Melbourne,” it said. “Mr Yiannopoulos was reported in July 2018 to have not paid the Victoria Police bill.

“Mr Yiannopoulos was reported as saying ‘I love it when protestors turn up to my shows ... when people are yelling in the streets, it gets me off’. Mr Yiannopoulos states he is ‘a troll’ and that ‘one of the purposes of trolling is to generate as much noise and public outcry as possible’.”

The Australian government has previously denied visas under the same character grounds to Chelsea Manning, the former US intelligence analyst turned whistleblower, and British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes the world is run by giant shape-shifting lizards and has said Jewish people funded Adolf Hitler.'

Obviously, there is a difference between conduct and content, though there will always be reasonable debate where the precise boundary is. That there is such a boundary is not really subject to reasonable debate - throwing a brick through a window is not protected under the 1st Amendment, even if burning an American flag you have legally purchased is.

I have trouble getting too worried about free speech on campus.

We have already gone past the point where freedom ends. Our government has the power to spy on us. The USA can detain citizens indefinitely. Our President can order that American citizens be stripped of their citizenship or kill us. We have secret courts, secret orders, and secret budgets that can crush citizens. Just look at Presidential Policy Directive #20 that Obama signed. The Feds have accelerated the militarization of local police by giving them military weapons and compounding this threat by using troops on US soil to protect us.

Yes, we should fight back. Yes, we should claim our freedoms. But instead

, we become embroiled in partisan quarrels and distracted by political buffoons who grandstand for the media. We come together to worry about who won the Oscars or which Netflix series we like.

And here's the horror story from The University of Delaware:

An executive order, or other coercive methods to insure the First Amendment is not violated at public or private universities, may well be counter-productive. After all, public universities are already bound by the First, and arguably private universities should not be.

Nonetheless, saying this remedy is inappropriate begs the question of how badly colleges and universities will need to reform themselves if they are to retain their position at the heights of scholarly endeavor and, if the answer is "they need to," how is it to be accomplished?

And, if colleges and universities are past the point where internal reform is possible, is the solution external pressure (from alumni, perhaps) or the creation of parallel systems created de novo?

Or, we could just pretend that enforced ideological conformity on today's campuses isn't actually far worse than it ever became even in the days of McCarthy and Loyalty Oaths.

I would really liked so see some moderate conservative/non-denominational academics get together and start a private university of their own, with a renewed dedication to freedom of speech and academic inquiry. Just remember not to invite people just for the sake of controversy or the whole thing will fall.apart. you want people who are actually neutral academics who just want to left alone to do research, not the rightwing equivalent of oberlin.

No one finds it odd that rich musicians, basketball players and movie stars get to say Nigg* and not only are they paid for it, they are inspiring. Yet in a classroom, try saying it. It doesn't happen. Yet people in a classroom say "fu**"? Those same rich movie stars who never fart (OK, Justin Gordon Levitt did once) in the movies, while people who work 9-5 have to slog through life-reality. People who serve in war; they kill people! And the fact that those people are evil is not enough. Why? Because action is hard to understand. Reputation management, I repeat, is the chief scourge in the technological century.

Good piece. The most disruptive protest I can remember from my day was when a middle aged preacher, with a big American flag, shouted and called all the kids in the quad sinful. IIRC people laughed, but otherwise left him alone, and he went away.

So, if I walk into a American Legion bar and wave anti-trump signs I shouldn't expect to get thrown out on my ass or worse?

And, having licked my wounds, you can expect my legal challenge to their tax exempt status.

You never know. I remember there were some guys who wanted to film a shocking video, so they went into a Waffle House and pretended to be celebrating their new gay marriage. To their great surprise everybody laughed and clapped and applauded.

Well of course, and kudos to the fine folks enjoying their waffles.

My post was taking as an entry premise that we were going to deal with the right wing caricature of campuses, so I thought an illustrative counter caricature would be acceptable.

You'd likely get thrown out for being a snide prick.

The American Legion isn't a public agency and it doesn't purport to be a forum for the exchange of ideas. This isn't that difficult. For people who aren't snide pricks.

You are quite wrong. The Legion is a tax exempt entity. It is also federally chartered and receives state and federal grants. Following the logic espoused by conservatives towards entities they don't like, that means it most conform to a restricted code of conduct, and restrictions on speech.

Unless, of course, it is a political group, church, or school that they agree with. Then, any restrictions or calls to de-fund or de-charter would be a violation of their free speech.

PS. What is your view of snide pricks being obnoxious on college campuses?

Your example is the equivalent of priests walking into a planned parenthood and screaming in women’s faces during their abortions. It’s prima facie an absurd comparison to the mission of Universities and the cultural component of free speech.

Laws reflect the culture of the population, they are in fact downstream of culture. It’s incredibly important that we foster norms of free exchange in ideas and which vigorously defend the right to free speech.

These norms are being lost rapidly. In their place activists want a “right to not be offended.”

If you are a vigorous defender of free speech in all cases then fine; if you only discover free speech when someone tells you you can't march in your white hood, then pound salt.

What in the literal f*ck are you talking about? Are you a schizophrenic homeless man in SF banging away on a public library computer? Is every proponent of free speech a Klansman in your mind? You and bear/anonymous need to seek help before you start to hurt random strangers.

Also where do these nut jobs find an economics blog?

The conversation about free speech on campus is a perennial complaint from the right, the sort of people who get their feelings hurt when they are alienated and marginalized on campus for being such annoying DBs. And yes, generally the same peopleas the apologists for Klansmen who whine about being criticized for their aberrant views.

I’m proud of you for looking up perennial in the dictionary. For someone with the reading comprehension of a mentally retarded squirrel it’s quite the achievement.

The fact that you frame constitutional rights as a partisan issue is disgusting, and your vague threats towards people and minorities exercising their constitutional rights deserves at minimum a casual look by the Anti-Extremism task force at Homeland Security.

Thankfully they’ll find this now.

Step away from the computer
Youve lost your mind

"Placing more constraints on their behavior could actually weaken their hand — by limiting their ability to mollify unruly student groups, for instance."

But that's whole the point. We *want* to limit the ability to mollify unruly students by taking away the 1st amendment rights of other students.

Clearly, we are not facing a dire shortage of speech; I would argue that the elevation of politics and ideology as the important field of battle in life (instead of occupying a small sliver of one's attention, and certainly deserving no personal claim, or censure, compared to other ties and duties) is the change that has made free speech suddenly "problematic" for so many.

Conservatives on campus get shouted at by young people (on rare occasions, suffer violence). Leftists on campus get fired.

Ironically, the latter is a thing actually done by administrators, and yet I doubt this administration is going to do anything about it.

An on line university with scattered offices for irregular discussion groups. Thus, there is no reason at all to have a education 'campus'. If young kids want campus life, go have a campus but leave education out of the process. Why not have the private sector offer campus life just like we have boy scout and girl scout camps. Then the 18 years olds can go to camp and fake it, returning home to continue on line studies.

Nothing about Congress and States and Universities creating anti-BDS laws to suppress free speech huh?

Or how about Congress trying to suppress any criticism and using identity politics, the hurt snowflake framework of using anti-semitism as a broad stroke smear for any hurt feelings and opinions against Israel.

Well, I had wondered how long it would take someone advocating free speech at universities to remove some reporting concerning donor influence on faculty hiring decisions. Even if a person centrally involved in those agreements was not named.

One hopes that the statement from GMU's president concerning this matter is not too controversial for this comment section -

Always interesting to see what some people consider beyond reasonable discussion, particularly when it relates to evidence from a court proceeding.

Comments for this post are closed