I agree with Paul and Stanley Kurtz that President Trump’s order on campus free speech represents a significant step forward. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, on the other hand, quotes Minnesota education authorities assuring us the order won’t change a thing:
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday upholding freedom of speech on college campuses — a move some local higher education officials shrugged off as a highly visible case of preaching to the choir.
The U declined to comment Thursday on the likely impact of the order, instead saying it stands behind a statement from the Association of American Universities, of which it is a member. The statement said member institutions are already fully committed to upholding free speech, making the order “a solution in search of a problem.”
Right. For a contrary view, the Strib turned to my daughter, the go-to conservative student in local media. She has personal experience with the extent to which Minnesota’s colleges are “fully committed to upholding free speech.”
Meanwhile, South Dakota has passed the first-ever state law intended to assure free speech in local universities. The text of the bill is here. The law, signed into law on Wednesday by Governor Kristi Noem, is impressive. It applies to the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state’s six public universities, and reads like a free speech wish list:
The Board of Regents shall require each institution under its control to maintain a commitment to the principles of free expression and encourage the timely and rational discussion of topics in an environment that is intellectually and ideologically diverse. Neither the Board of Regents nor any institution under its control may attempt to shield individuals from constitutionally protected speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed.
I like the laundry list. No “free speech zones” in South Dakota’s universities:
Any outdoor area within the boundaries of a public institution of higher education constitutes a designated public forum for the benefit of students, faculty, administrators, other employees, and their invited guests, to engage in expressive activity, unless access to the area is otherwise properly restricted.
An institution may not designate any area within its boundaries as a free speech zone or otherwise restrict expressive activities to particular areas within its boundaries in a manner that is inconsistent with this section.
Student organizations must be treated equally:
A public institution of higher education, its faculty, administrators, and other employees, may not discriminate against any student or student organization based on the content or viewpoint of their expressive activity. Funds allocated to student organizations shall be distributed in a nondiscriminatory manner in accordance with applicable state and federal authority. Access to, and use of, facilities at a public institution of higher education shall be equally available to all student organizations, regardless of the ideological, political, or religious beliefs of the organization.
An institution may not prohibit an ideological, political, or religious student organization from requiring that its leaders or members of the organization affirm and adhere to the organization’s sincerely held beliefs, comply with the organization’s standards of conduct, or further the organization’s mission or purpose, as defined by the organization.
That last provision is important. Many universities have tried to undermine conservative student groups by requiring them to accept as members and officers students whose views are antithetical to the organization’s mission–this in the name of “inclusion.”
On or before December first of each year, the Board of Regents shall prepare and submit to the Governor and each member of the legislature a report that:
(1) Sets forth all actions taken by each institution to promote and ensure intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas; and
(2) Describes any events or occurrences that impeded intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.
Governor Noem issued a statement when she signed the bill:
“Our university campuses should be places where students leave their comfort zones and learn about competing ideas and perspectives,” Noem said in a release. “I hope this bill lets the nation know that in South Dakota, we are teaching our next generation to debate important issues, work together to solve problems, and think independently.”
It would be great if more states would follow South Dakota’s lead. I suppose the biggest limitation of such a law is that it takes a state like South Dakota not only to pass it, but to enforce it.
And the good news keeps on coming: at Amherst, which has long been considered one of our goofiest liberal campuses, the college’s President revoked an astonishingly ignorant missive from the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion–as always, an Orwellian name.
The good guys — College Republicans and everyone else who values the free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — notched a victory this week at Amherst College when its president shot down its own Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s “Common Language Guide” it emailed to students which laid out PC definitions for everything from capitalism to transgenderism to how to address illegal immigrants, or as they prefer it, “undocumented persons.”
Amherst College’s PC polemic frowned upon differentiating between legal and illegal immigration status, don’t like assimilation and derided capitalism as an “economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.”
Those last two sentences are the dumbest I have seen in a long time.
Amherst’s College Republicans protested, and college president Biddy Martin astonishingly agreed — setting herself apart as a flicker of common sense in American academia today — issuing a statement saying the document should never have gone out to the student body, as “it runs counter to the core academic values of freedom of thought and expression. I was not aware that the document was being produced and I did not approve its circulation. It cuts against our efforts to foster open exchange and independent thinking.”
There is no shortage of bad news these days. It is good to see advances being made on the free speech front.