Man Bites Dog: College President Defends Free Speech from Campus Bullies

Everyone who watched the Democratic debate last week will have noted that with the exception of James Webb, none of the candidates were willing to risk the wrath of the Black Lives Matter movement by endorsing the obviously sensible option, offered by the questioner, that all lives matter. This is not going to end well for liberals.

Last month a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut wrote an article mildly critical of Black Live Matter in the student newspaper. Worth reading the whole thing, but here’s a sample:

I talked to a Black Lives Matter supporter, Michael Smith ’18, who recoiled when I told him I was wondering if the movement was legitimate. This is not questioning their claims of racism among the police, or in society itself. Rather, is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change? . . .

. . . following the Baltimore riots, the city saw a big spike in murders. Good officers, like the one I talked to, go to work every day even more worried that they won’t come home. . .

Smith countered with, “You can’t judge an entire movement off the actions of a few extremists.”

I responded with, “Isn’t that what the movement is doing with the police? Judging an entire profession off the actions of a few members?”

You can imagine what happened next: Demands that the article be retracted from the paper, and that the author apologize, along with the obligatory “Open Letter to the Wesleyan Community from Students of Color.” First paragraph:

To be black in an anti-black society is to be a commodity fit for liquidation, it is to be already evidenced as not befitting of life, it is to live under surveillance and always positioned as a potential threat, it is living under the conditions of imprisonment (of our senses of self, expressions, bodies, gender articulations, and sexualities).

It doesn’t get any better from there.

Turns out what really has the perpetually aggrieved upset is that Wesleyan’s president, Michael Roth, and top administrators came out in favor of free speech in a statement:

Many students took strong exception to the article; it was meant to be a provocative piece. Some students not only have expressed their disagreement with the op-ed but have demanded apologies, a retraction and have even harassed the author and the newspaper’s editors. Some are claiming that the op-ed was less speech than action: it caused harm and made people of color feel unsafe.

Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.

Good for president Roth. (I note, incidentally, that in the comments are demands that the president take down his statement. Some people never will figure this out.)

However, it appears the student government as Wesleyan is knuckling under to the PC bullies. Reason magazine reports:

Now, it appears the student government is taking action. On Sunday, the Wesleyan Student Assembly affirmed a resolution to restructure how The Argus is funded. The resolution is complicated, but it would substantially decrease The Argus’s printing budget; money saved this way would be put toward stipends for writers at various campus publications that don’t publish as frequently as The Argus. The WSA claims the purpose of the resolution is to “reduce paper waste,” by printing The Argus less frequently.

The exact details haven’t been hammered out yet, but Argus editors expect their funding to be cut by $15,000.

On Twitter, the WSA denied that it had voted to defund The Argus, but did not answer questions about whether the resolution would eventually cut funding to The Argus. Questions about the political nature of the resolution were also left unanswered. . .

A campus that allows its student government to bully a newspaper for occasionally publishing an unpopular opinion is not a healthy place for free expression.


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