Stanley Kurtz reports that as we approach the halfway mark of the Fall 2017 semester, the rate of shout-downs on college campuses is nearly quadruple that of last spring. There have been nearly twice as many shout-downs as last semester in only half the time
That’s a striking figure, given that shout-downs were far from rare during the Spring semester. Kurtz chronicled ten such events. They included rioting at Berkeley over Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance and shout-downs of Charles Murray and Heather Mac Donald at Middlebury and UCLA, respectively.
But this semester, shout-downs have become commonplace. Kurtz documents 14 of them in October alone.
Moreover, the targets of the shout-downs have expanded. Not only visiting speakers but administrators, professors, and fellow students are now victims. Kurtz explains:
The substantial escalation in both the frequency and targeting of shout-downs is largely due to the failure of administrators to discipline last year’s disruptions. Once students realized they could get away with silencing visiting speakers, they turned the technique on internal university opponents as well.
In a new twist, a college employee (or at least a person said to be one) disrupted a meeting of college Republicans at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The meeting featured Ivan Dozier, who from 2010 to 2015 portrayed Chief Illiniwek the school’s unofficial football mascot. He was discussing the controversy over the Native American mascot.
The model free speech bill developed by the Goldwater Institute in conjunction with Kurtz requires public universities to develop sanctions not only for students who interfere with the expressive rights of others, but for university employees who do so. The incident with the Chief in Illinois confirms that this provision is necessary.
How have colleges responded to the wave of shout-downs this semester? Fecklessly, of course.
According to Kurtz, Columbia is the only school that has initiated disciplinary proceedings. It is also the only school that has had two shout-downs this semester. However, just yesterday, Columbia dropped those proceedings under faculty pressure.
It’s clear that universities are incapable of handling this problem on their own. That’s why legislation is necessary.
As we noted here, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where the Board of Regents adopted a discipline policy drawn from the Goldwater model, demonstrators acknowledged that they decided not to shout down a speaker because of the new penalties in the discipline policy.
Goldwater-based campus free speech bills are the best medicine for the shout-down epidemic. Indeed, they may be the only effective treatment.