Cal Berkeley & Another Loss for Free Speech

I’m disappointed that Ann Coulter’s speech is now canceled at Cal Berkeley. I’m not a fan of Coulter, but I’m a fan of the 1st Amendment, and this trend in our country where anti-freedom thugs are allowed to threaten or cause violence to shut down conservative speakers on college campuses is a black mark for our country. I would write the same post if liberal speakers were being shut down. All those who believe in true freedom from left to right must band together and fight to fully protect free speech in our nation. There is only one way to defeat speech you disagree with in a free society and that is to offer better and more thoughtful speech in rebuttal.

Here’s a thoughtful post on free speech at colleges from ACLU:

We All Need to Defend Speech We Hate

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Shout-out to Bernie Sanders!

We applaud Senator Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech. He said the following in The Huffington Post about the Ann Coulter speaking at Berkeley fiasco:

“I don’t like this. I don’t like it,” Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally . . .  “Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.” . . .

“To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness,” he said. “If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?”

“What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions,” he concluded. “Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.”

We all need to stand up for free speech on college campuses. We must demand that all universities, especially public universities, truly embrace diversity of thought and academic freedom. If students believe their views are correct and other views are wrong, they need to test their views in the marketplace of ideas. The growing totalitarianism of thought on college campuses is a black mark for our country and must be confronted by all Americans that believe in freedom from the left to the right.

Thanks Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Yiannopoulos May Be A Clown But Free Speech Matters More!

We’re unimpressed with Milo Yiannopoulos and the so-called Alt-Right movement. We will not attend any of his speeches. He’s looking to provoke and say hateful things. His latest attempt to speak at a college was shut down at University of California-Davis this past Friday – see links:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/us/milo-yiannopoulos-uc-davis-speech-canceled/

http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/14/censorship-uc-davis-student-protesters-s

However, the students who shut down his appearances on campuses are making a mistake. Censorship is never the answer. The student protesters are actually helping to prove one of Yiannopoulos’ points – that American colleges are now completely controlled by leftist administrators and professors who are denying intellectual freedom and free speech to conservative students. If free speech is to be protected anywhere; it should certainly be protected at public universities. We believe that free speech works best as a marketplace of ideas. Let Yiannopoulos speak and listeners will quickly realize how ridiculous his radical right-wing views really are. The protesters are keeping Yiannopoulos in the news and actually ensuring he gets invited to even more colleges. Without the protests, some students would attend his events, he would not gain many followers and probably disappear from public debate rather quickly.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

 

 

 

I’m Thankful That FIRE Is Fighting To Save Free Speech For College Students!

When I entered SUNY at Buffalo Law School in 1989, I was surprised that some of my professors (not all) deemed it their solemn duty to indoctrinate me and my classmates with a left-wing interpretation of the legal system. It was not difficult to tell the difference between “black letter” Torts law and what was taught in that class. As an older student, I was not intimidated by the professors and pleased that some of the moderate and conservative students did debate the “critical legal studies” professors, but unfortunately, most students either remained quiet or actually enjoyed being indoctrinated by professors. I greatly enjoyed debating the left-wing professors and never allowed them to curtail my First Amendment rights at my public law school (although a few professors and a dean did try). The debates we sparked were beneficial to every student at our law school because college is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, where all views are tested and challenged. We ensured that the views of our fellow students were more thoughtful and informed after they heard all sides of an issue. Freedom of speech should always be the backbone of intellectual life at every college, but sadly we cannot pick up a newspaper without reading evidence that this is not true at too many colleges.

In the battle to save free speech on college campuses, there are some heroes like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Here’s its website: www.thefire.org and one of it’s founding members wrote an excellent op-ed in the New York Post this week that I recommend you read:

How US academia became an authoritarian petri dish

By Harvey Silvergate, May 10, 2016, New York Post

I have dedicated much of my career to a contest I consider immensely important to the future health of America: the effort to destroy the liberal arts-and-sciences university by replacing the quest for human knowledge with the indoctrination of students into truth as it is postulated by self-righteous post-modern fanatics.

This dangerous trend accelerated in the mid-1980s. On college campuses, definitions of “harassment” were adopted that were so vague and broad as to drastically escalate the number of disciplinary proceedings.

Speech codes popped up that sought to prevent students from insulting or “harassing” one another, but that in fact strangled the academic enterprise. Kangaroo courts were established to adjudicate violations.

Remember that we’re talking about liberal arts colleges, not prisons nor re-education camps!

The bottom line was that I saw that these major institutions had taken a turn toward practices that furnished a nutrient-laden petri dish for an experiment in authoritarianism.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors and I established The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in 1999, a year after we published our book, “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.”

That book followed Professor Kors’ representation, with some legal advice from me, of an undergraduate who had been hauled in front of a Penn disciplinary tribunal. The infamous “water buffalo” case involved a student who admonished a loud group of undergraduate women to “shut up, you water buffalo!” as he tried to write an English paper.

The women, who were black, considered this remark “racial harassment,” and student life administrators agreed. It turned out, actually, that in the offending student’s first language, Hebrew, the common term “behema” best translates to “water-buffalo” and refers in slang to a rowdy or thoughtless person.

Penn’s administrators, unaware of the student’s cultural background, assumed that the water buffalo was native to Africa (it’s not) and from this they extrapolated their hate speech theory. In the face of derisive worldwide publicity, triggered by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial titled, “Buffaloed at Penn,” the campus bureaucrats backed down, but it turned out to be merely a tactical retreat.

Sanity’s well-publicized victory in the water buffalo case triggered a flood of students seeking assistance from Professor Kors and me. These beleaguered individuals were suffering not only from unfair disciplinary proceedings, but also were being cheated of a genuine liberal-arts education.

The liberal arts are not readily compatible with censorship and mindless persecution. From the day students arrive as freshmen they are immediately subjected to tendentious sensitivity training engineered by burgeoning student life bureaucrats who intrude into their most intimate lives and thoughts.

I recognized that they were at the mercy of a new regime, something of a cross between Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Kafka’s “The Trial.”

Kors and I couldn’t handle the volume, and so FIRE was born out of sheer necessity. I at the time had assumed that surely the ludicrousness of the campus prosecutions would result in the phenomenon burning itself out within less than 10 years.

It was, I told myself, a momentary social panic. FIRE would be a temporary project. The burning of witches in Salem, after all, ended rather abruptly when the Massachusetts high court decided that enough was enough and put an end to the trials in 1693. The scourge had lasted only one year.

Well, FIRE is in its 17th year with no end in sight. We are in trench warfare for the time being, until we can figure out how to administer a knock-out blow to the illiberal forces that have overtaken the academy.

The bacteria in the authoritarian petri dish, then, are thriving. And so must our efforts to develop the legal, cultural and intellectual antibiotics necessary to stop them.

Excerpted from Harvey Silverglate’s acceptance speech upon his being awarded the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award May 9.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

More on War on Free Speech at Colleges

free-speech-feature-300x206I’m pleased to have come across this thoughtful piece I just read on The Atlantic website: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-glaring-evidence-that-free-speech-is-threatened-on-campus/471825/

The writer Conor Friedersdorf verifies the threat being waged against free speech principles on college campuses and the chilling effect it’s having on both students and professors.

My favorite part of the college experience was participating in robust free speech. In college and law school, I loved debating my fellow students and professors inside and outside the classroom. These debates taught me so much. By listening to counterpoints to my views, I improved my public policy positions and even changed a few when I realized the weakness in my arguments.

Throughout our society, too many people fail to understand the doctrine of freedom of speech. It’s always meant to be a two-way street. You say what you think and I can respond with counterpoints. The backbone of a free society is a marketplace of ideas with a full and substantive debate on the issues we face. Freedom of speech certainly doesn’t mean that you speak and no one can disagree with you.

The college students that want campuses to be “safe zones”  and administrators enforcing speech codes apparently fail to appreciate the tremendous value of free and open debate in the college environment – or maybe this is just another example of politically correct extremism practiced by zealots who don’t support the doctrine of free speech and seek to block the expression of ideas they disagree with.

Do you have a child attending college soon? If yes, visit the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where you can review the free speech ratings for most colleges in our country.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)