Academia

P.C. Never Died

Think campus censorship disappeared in the 1990s? Guess again.

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In 2007 a student working his way through college was found guilty of racial harassment for reading a book in public. Some of his co-workers had been offended by the book's cover, which included pictures of men in white robes and peaked hoods along with the tome's title, Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The student desperately explained that it was an ordinary history book, not a racist tract, and that it in fact celebrated the defeat of the Klan in a 1924 street fight. Nonetheless, the school, without even bothering to hold a hearing, found the student guilty of "openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject." 

The incident would seem far-fetched in a Philip Roth novel—or a Philip K. Dick novel, for that matter—but it actually happened to Keith John Sampson, a student and janitor at Indiana University–Purdue University Indiana-polis. Despite the intervention of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I am president), the case was hardly a blip on the media radar for at least half a year after it took place. 

Compare that lack of attention with the response to the now-legendary 1993 "water buffalo incident" at the University of Pennsylvania, where a student was brought up on charges of racial harassment for yelling "Shut up, you water buffalo!" out his window. His outburst was directed at members of a black sorority who were holding a loud celebration outside his dorm. Penn's effort to punish the student was covered by Time, Newsweek, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The New Republic, NPR, and NBC Nightly News, for starters. Commentators from Garry Trudeau to Rush Limbaugh agreed that Penn's actions warranted mockery. Hating campus political correctness was hotter than grunge rock in the early 1990s. Both the Democratic president and the Republican Congress condemned campus speech codes. California passed a law to invalidate Stanford's onerous speech rules, and comedians and public intellectuals alike decried collegiate censorship. 

So what happened? Why does a case like the one involving Sampson's Klan book, which is even crazier than the "water buffalo" story that was an international scandal 15 years ago, now barely produce a national shrug?

For many, the topic of political correctness feels oddly dated, like a debate over the best Nirvana album. There is a popular perception that P.C. was a battle fought and won in the 1990s. Campus P.C. was a hot new thing in the late 1980s and early '90s, but by now the media have come to accept it as a more or less harmless, if unfortunate, byproduct of higher education.

But it is not harmless. With so many examples of censorship and administrative bullying, a generation of students is getting four years of dangerously wrongheaded lessons about both their own rights and the importance of respecting the rights of others. Diligently applying the lessons they are taught, students are increasingly turning on each other, and trying to silence fellow students who offend them. With schools bulldozing free speech in brazen defiance of legal precedent, and with authoritarian restrictions surrounding students from kindergarten through graduate school, how can we expect them to learn anything else?

Throwing the Book at Speech Codes

One reason people assume political correctness is dead is that campus speech codes—perhaps the most reviled symbol of P.C.—were soundly defeated in every single legal challenge brought against them from 1989 to 1995. At two universities in Michigan, at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Connecticut, at Stanford, speech codes crumbled in court. And of the 13 legal challenges launched since 2003 against codes that FIRE has deemed unconstitutional, each and every one has been successful. Given the vast differences across judges and jurisdictions, a 13-0 winning streak is, to say the least, an accomplishment.

Yet FIRE has determined that 71 percent of the 375 top colleges still have policies that severely restrict speech. And the problem isn't limited to campuses that are constitutionally bound to respect free expression. The overwhelming majority of universities, public and private, promise incoming students and professors academic freedom and free speech. When such schools turn around and attempt to limit those students' and instructors' speech, they reveal themselves as hypocrites, susceptible not only to rightful public ridicule but also to lawsuits based on their violations of contractual promises.

FIRE defines a speech code as any campus regulation that punishes, forbids, heavily regulates, or restricts a substantial amount of protected speech, or what would be protected speech in society at large. Some of the codes currently in force include "free speech zones." The policy at the University of Cincinnati, for example, limits protests to one area of campus, requires advance scheduling even within that area, and threatens criminal trespassing charges for anyone who violates the policy. Other codes promise a pain-free world, such as Texas Southern University's ban on attempting to cause "emotional," "mental," or "verbal harm," which includes "embarrassing, degrading or damaging information, assumptions, implications, [and] remarks" (emphasis added). The code at Texas A&M prohibits violating others' "rights" to "respect for personal feelings" and "freedom from indignity of any type."

Many universities also have wildly overbroad policies on computer use. Fordham, for example, prohibits using any email message to "insult" or "embarrass," while Northeastern University tells students they may not send any message that "in the sole judgment of the University" is "annoying" or "offensive." 

Vague racial and sexual harassment codes remain the most common kinds of campus speech restrictions. Murray State University, for example, bans "displaying sexual and/or derogatory comments about men/women on coffee mugs, hats, clothing, etc." (What is it like to be sexually harassed by a coffee mug?) The University of Idaho bans "communication" that is "insensitive." New York University prohibits "insulting, teasing, mocking, degrading, or ridiculing another person or group," as well as "inappropriate…comments, questions, [and] jokes." Davidson College's sexual harassment policy still prohibits the use of "patronizing remarks," including referring to an adult as "girl," "boy," "hunk," "doll," "honey," or "sweetie." It also bars "comments or inquiries about dating."

Before it was changed under pressure from FIRE, the residence life program at the University of Delaware, which applied to all 7,000 students in the dormitories, included a code that described "oppressive" speech as a crime on the same level of urgency as rape. Not content to limit speech, the program also informed resident assistants that "all whites are racists" and that it was the university's job to heal them, required students to participate in floor events that publically shamed participants with "incorrect" political beliefs, and forced students to fill out questionnaires about what races and sexes they would date, with the goal of changing their idea of their own sexual identity. (These activities were described in the university's materials as "treatments.") These were just the lowlights among a dozen other illegal invasions of privacy, free speech, and conscience.

Until 2007 Western Michigan University's harassment policy banned "sexism," which it defined as "the perception and treatment of any person, not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex." I am unfamiliar with any other attempt by a public institution to ban a perception, let alone perceiving that a person is a man or woman. Even public restrooms violate this rule, which may help explain why the university finally abandoned it.

Needless to say, ridiculous codes produce ridiculous prosecutions. In 2007, at Brandeis University, the administration found politics professor Donald Hindley guilty of racial harassment for using the word wetback in his Latin American politics class. Why had Hindley employed such an epithet? To explain its origins and to decry its use.

Even if it were true, as defensive administrators often claim, that these policies are rarely enforced, their omnipresence would still pose a serious problem on its own. These codes not only chill free expression by warning students of serious consequences for controversial speech—or even normal, everyday speech—but they also systematically miseducate kids to believe that free speech goes only as far as the most sensitive person in the room can handle.

Free Inquiry, but Not Too Free

College students are placed in an unenviable position. They are constantly urged to argue, debate, discuss, question, and analyze the most important issues of the day, but they also often know stories of other students who were punished for taking the "wrong side" of an argument.

Consider the recent trend of colleges cracking down on students for advocating, or in some cases just joking about, gun rights. In April a student at the Community College of Allegheny County, in Pittsburgh, was prohibited from handing out pamphlets encouraging students to join Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a national organization. The administration accused her of punishable "solicitation" for trying to "sell" students on her ideas and even insisted that she destroy her pamphlets.

In fall 2008, a professor at Central Connecticut State University called the police on students who gave a presentation in his speech class arguing for the safety value of concealed carry. Also in 2008, at Lone Star College–Tomball near Houston, a student group was threatened with dissolution for distributing a satiric flier listing "Top Ten Gun Safety Tips." The banned flier listed "advice" such as: "No matter how excited you are about buying your first gun, do not run around yelling 'I have a gun! I have a gun!'?"

That same year, students at another Texas school, Tarrant County College, were told that they had to go to the school's tiny "free speech zone" if they wanted to demonstrate in favor of concealed carry—and that they could not conduct a symbolic "empty holster protest" even within the confines of the zone. After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, a student at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was suspended after he sent an email message suggesting that the carnage might have been stopped earlier if students had been armed, a professor at Boston's Emmanuel College was fired after leading a classroom discussion about the shooting in which he and a student exchanged pretend gunshots, and Yale briefly banned the use of any realistic-looking weapons in theatrical productions, whether switchblades, rapiers, or six-guns. (Yale now allows such prop weapons, provided that the audience is warned about them in advance.)

In a similar spirit, Arkansas Tech banned Stephen Sondheim's fanciful musical Assassins in 2008 "out of respect for the families of those victims of the tragedies at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, and from an abundance of caution." And in spring 2008, students at Colorado College were found guilty of "violence" for producing a parody of a feminist flier. The offending document focused on macho topics such as "chainsaw etiquette," "tough guy wisdom," and the range of a sniper rifle. The administration seemed especially offended by the rifle, with the vice president of student life citing "the juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality" as a primary reason justifying the finding.

Beyond Left and Right

Because America's universities tend to tilt left, and because many targets of P.C. censorship are socially conservative, campus censorship has too often come to be understood as a niche issue for the conservative media and blogosphere. This is a bizarre development, not only because free speech was once a central liberal cause but because liberals are by no means immune from campus censorship. Hindley, the Brandeis professor who was punished for his instructional use of wetback, is a liberal. Sampson, the student who read a book about the Klan, is an Obama voter, and some of the most vocal students opposing the Delaware residence program were liberals. This strange pigeonholing may explain why cases like that of Elizabeth Ito, who lost her job at Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina after criticizing the war in Iraq, or the students at the University of Texas who last year were threatened with expulsion for having an Obama poster in their window, struggled to find a receptive audience in the media.

The perception that free speech on campus is primarily a conservative issue ultimately enables campus censors. Free speech zones, for example, are often tiny, out-of-the-way areas where some campuses quarantine protest activities. Obtaining permission to use even these limited spaces often involves waiting periods and registration requirements. In my experience the zones disproportionately affect left-wing protests. In November, for example, three professors were banned from campus at Southwestern College in California after they supported students whose protest against budget cuts took place outside—I am not making this up—the "free speech patio." Nevertheless, the conservative website CampusReform.org has listed a free speech zone as a "leftist" campus abuse. While the site commendably wants to bring attention to these speech cages, such labeling helps campus bureaucrats brush off criticism as the hobbyhorse of a disfavored political minority, rather than an expression of concern over policies that affect all students.

The reason for P.C. censorship often has nothing to do with left or right. Sensitivity is often a cynical excuse to squelch speech that administrators don't like for purely self-interested reasons. In late 2002, for example, the administration at Harvard Business School threatened a student newspaper editor because he ran a cartoon mocking the I.T. department for the failure of its computer system during interview week. The dean claimed the cartoon violated "community standards" because it was not "respectful discourse," but ultimately the rationale was one that FIRE frequently sees from campus administrators: I believe in free speech and all, but I draw the line at making fun of me.

Hayden Barnes was expelled from Valdosta State University in Georgia in 2007 for posting a collage on Facebook that critiqued a planned parking garage because of its effect on the environment. The school's rationale? Barnes, a decorated paramedic, posed a "clear and present danger" because the collage was labeled the "Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage." Ronald Zaccari was the president of the college; the collage's title was a joking reference to the president's assertion that the garage would be part of his "legacy." The school clearly did not seriously believe that Barnes was the next Virginia Tech gunman, as the expulsion note was simply slipped under his door along with a copy of the collage.

Unlearning Liberty

With all these examples of authoritarian bullying and systemic miseducation about rights, we shouldn't be surprised to discover that students are learning not only to accept censorship but to censor each other. Just before I completed this article, more than 10,000 copies of the official student newspaper for the University of Arizona were stolen and dumped by students who were upset about an article.

Newspaper theft is common on college campuses, with the most chilling examples culminating in public burnings. Students have burned other students' newspapers at schools as prestigious as Cornell, Boston College, Dartmouth, and the University of Wisconsin. In 2008 multiple incidents were reported in which students destroyed pro-life students' protest displays, including an incident at Missouri State University in which students smashed dozens of Popsicle-stick crosses and another at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in which a member of the student government tore up the crosses one by one in broad daylight. His defense: "Since [abortion] is a right, you don't have the right to challenge it."

When students come to believe that censoring rival points of view is not only permissible but laudable, the potential damage goes far beyond campus. Our colleges and universities produce our scientists, our business leaders, our lawyers, and our legislators. The habits formed in college inevitably seep into the other major social institutions.

In 1957 the U.S. Supreme Court said of the nation's colleges, "Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die." The Court was right. The next generation needs to learn the practices of a free people. If it doesn't, we shouldn't be surprised if, when it takes its turn to run our republic, values such as free speech and tolerance are treated like rusty, battered antiques: quaint, mysterious, and best kept in the basement. 

Greg Lukianoff (greg@thefire.org) is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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170 responses to “P.C. Never Died

  1. Typical PC horseshit… and typical leftist hypocrisy.

    1. Did you read the entire thing? It ain’t always the left doing this. Or do you think the left would try to censor someone for having an Obama poster?

    2. “Typical PC horseshit… and typical leftist hypocrisy.”

      That comment is gay!

      Not sure if that means happy, in your face prideful or just plain unnatural but there you have it, PC at its best.

    3. @The Libertarian Guy
      Please Read the article before commenting. Using those terms arent really very goood.. or cool..

    4. What i hate the most is, people cant understand the difference between PC and OS ! seriously, what the heck.. The comparisions like PC vs Mac makes me mad !
      PC means personal computer, not windows !
      Geez, people !

  2. “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”

    That generation started passing through college 20 years ago. That explains a lot about where we are now.

  3. From here:

    One of the most stark examples ? a rebuke to those who pronounce “political correctness” dead or mythological ? is the recent blitzkrieg of slander waged against economist Walter Block. The particulars are simple: After giving a speech at Loyola College of Maryland, Block was vilified as a racist and sexist by sundry university (e.g., the “Affirmative Action Diversity Task Force”) and outside entities for not explaining the white-black and male-female wage gaps solely in terms of the mandatory societal-bias model. A solid scholar, he beat back these ad hominem attacks. But it is a telling indictment of that model that it can be sustained only with the imposition of an ideological litmus test ? and in opposition to any intellectual standards.

    It is not merely a dogmatic model, but one applied incoherently, i.e., hypocritically. Ehrenreich’s unwillingness to hypothesize women’s advantage over men in academia is one example. Another: If blacks are disproportionately “represented” in the penal system, that in itself “demonstrates” that there must be bias against them and in favor of whites. But if males are disproportionately incarcerated, no one ? least of all feminists ? argues for the culpability of a systemic bias against men and in favor of women. So, what proves what? What kind of egalitarianism can’t maintain “equality” even in its own postulates ? and yet presumes to do so for the entirety of society?

    1. Clearly, our criminal justice system is sexist against men.

    2. Clearly, our criminal justice system is sexist against men.

    3. Clearly, our criminal justice system is sexist against men.

    4. Clearly, our criminal justice system is sexist against men.

      Sorry, I thought we were chanting…are we chanting?

      1. We are always chanting.

  4. Yeah, what about all those men in prison? What’s that about?

    1. Considering that 104% of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, I’m sure those XY monsters are guilty of something.

      1. 104 out of 100 women are sexually assaulted?

        1. Hey, I’m not as young and sprightly as I usedta be, but I still try to do my best…

    2. Something about Men not being able to pull of short skirts, see through shirts, and ample cleavage in the court of law.

  5. Was the prof who called the cops on students who were giving a presentation about concealed carry fired? He was, right? Please tell me he was.

    1. Nooge|1.11.10 @ 12:40PM|#

      Was the prof who called the cops on students who were giving a presentation about concealed carry fired? He was, right? Please tell me he was.

      Nooge = Sexist!!
      … or she was fired, right.

      1. Nah, “non-sexist language” won’t win you any points. From here:

        Consider … one of the Left’s more asinine projects: Is the purpose of “politically correct” Newspeak to construct a language free from bias? An intriguing answer can be found in the example of feminist “thealogian” Mary Daly. Using a sometimes-specific term in a universal sense (e.g., “the pseudo-generic ‘man'”) will earn an accusation of sexism, while using only universal terms (e.g., “human”) will draw an accusation of deliberately trying “to avoid confronting the specific problems of sexism.” No matter what language a person uses, the Left reserves the right to condemn it for bias — and to damn him as evil.

        (And to exempt itself from any standard. After all, if not to “gender angle” the tragedy of violence, why speak of only a “rape culture”? What about other acts of violence against women — robbery, assault, murder? Has it anything to do with the fact that these, too obviously, are also crimes against males?)

        1. ahh..

          Okay, how about: IT was fired!

          1. You are suggesting that they are a neuter and denying them agency of self-address.

            1. If you call them a Warty that would cover all the bases, no?

              1. brotherben, please start referring to yourself in a gender neutral manner. Siblingben is the correct term. Thanks.

            2. I was taught (by a female English professor) that use of the word “man” when referring to the human species as a whole indicates both males and females. That’s how I use it, and will continue to use it. That probably makes me a knuckle-dragging rapist or something.

              1. It makes you an old knuckle-dragging rapist or something.

              2. No, the fact that you are male and white makes you a knuckle dragging racist.

                1. anonymous,
                  finally, a clever remark.

    1. Now there’s a person I can laugh at. My God. I just can’t bring myself to be that serious about life.

    2. I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. She’s confusing “bitching about people one despises” with this other elusive thing normally referred to as humor. In this parlance, jokes consits of whining about horrible people like Christians and teh rich.

    3. Heh.. some of those classes she would have a pass on mocking — creating a hostile environment even, you might say — are covered by EEOC law at the national and state level… Laws that, no doubt, she’s all for. And of, course it, would fall exactly in the bullseye of many over-vague speech codes since you can’t make a speech code that says you can bash christians but not other groups like Jews and Muslims.

      Reflecting on such stuff and Lukianoff’s piece, the best way to confront such dishonest behavior, even though you may strongly oppose speech codes, is to use such codes against the people who are supposed to be using it to shut you up. Suddenly the get revisited. And if not, then the dishonesty of the powers that be are highlighted in sharp relief.

      Left Shoe meet Right foot.

    4. Heh.. some of those classes she would have a pass on mocking — creating a hostile environment even, you might say — are covered by EEOC law at the national and state level… Laws that, no doubt, she’s all for. And of, course it, would fall exactly in the bullseye of many over-vague speech codes since you can’t make a speech code that says you can bash christians but not other groups like Jews and Muslims.

      Reflecting on such stuff and Lukianoff’s piece, the best way to confront such dishonest behavior, even though you may strongly oppose speech codes, is to use such codes against the people who are supposed to be using it to shut you up. Suddenly the get revisited. And if not, then the dishonesty of the powers that be are highlighted in sharp relief.

      Left Shoe meet Right foot.

    5. Oh man, I had a flash back to the mid 90’s.

      I worked for a woman who had no sense of humor at all. Not that she was mean, but that she didn’t even understand the concept of funny.

      True Story:

      My boss was talking to one of our workers from Manila in the cubes where we all could hear her. For some reason they got on the Newhart show.

      Boss: There was this show and there were three brothers that were in it. Their names were Larry, Daryl and pauseDaryl.

      Other guy: sort of chuckles

      Boss: See how funny that is. The only difference between the names of the two brothers is that one has a pause before it!

      As soon as she said that there was about a 5 second pause while all of us wondered if we had totally missed the point for years. Then we realized that it wasn’t us and hilarity ensued.

      Until I read that post, I have never thought I would find anyone as humor impaired as my old boss.

  6. Q. How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A. That’s not funny!

    1. Q. How many libertarians does it take to change a light bulb?

      A. What? Pay taxes for electricity….You have got to be a statist…the welfare Queens are stealing my electricity…

      1. Dang, I’ve always paid an electric “company” for my electricity. Should I re-file my taxes for last year? Shit I really hope I don’t get audited now!

      2. Government owns the electric companies?

        1. No, they just grant monopolies to the utility companies.

        2. Not yet.

      3. That’s about 150 watts of FAIL.

          1. You just screwed your FAIL into a three-position switch.

            1. SugarFree, the government subsidizes electricity directly and indirectly. The good news is they don’t care what you do with your three-position “switch”.

              1. Your joke sucked. But please keep compounding your suckage. It amuses me far more than your original feeble attempt at insulting humor.

                1. SugarFree,
                  “That’s about 150 watts of FAIL.”
                  “You just screwed your FAIL into a three-position switch”
                  Wrong twice but you are less of a little bitch for not running away.
                  FIFY:
                  Your joke succeeded. Please keep on correcting us because we are silly little libertarians.

    2. Q. How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

      A. It’s the LIGHTBULB that has to change.

      1. Jake,glad you got it. One less man to train.

      2. Not my joke but probably falls into the category of speech the left would ban.

        Q. How many President Obamas does it take to change a lightbulb?

        A. One, Barack holds the bulb while the world spins around him.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BkIh1R5utY

        President Leon? Anyone?

  7. According to Democrats and the MSM, it’s now ok to criticize or praise black people based on how much ‘negro dialect’ they have or how ‘clean’ they are.

    Democrats, as the party of slavery, really should start watching their mouths; they may actually start scaring people off the plantation.

    1. There are some here who would scream racism in regards to your last phrase, “scaring people off the plantation.”

      Of course, they would be the racists.

      1. The Democrat party sure looks like a plantation to me.

        ‘If you toil for us, we just might give you a stale crust of bread.’

        1. Juba this and Juba that
          Juba this and Juba that
          Juba kill the yellow cat.
          Juba kill the yellow cat.

          Bend over double trouble, Juba
          bend over double trouble, Juba, ha-ha, Juba.

          You bake the bread
          you bake the bread
          and you give us the crust
          and you give us the crust

          You cook the meat
          you cook the meat
          and you give us the skin
          and you give us the skin
          And that’s when my mama’s trouble begin

          I say Juba. Juba.

          1. Am I the only one that thinks this stuff is not clever?

      2. Calling Obama “President Leon” based on the following video surely would fall into that same category.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BkIh1R5utY

    2. I can’t abide that kind of scarage.

  8. Ahh yes, “I’m all for free speech, but…”

    Here’s one of my favorites:

    “While I am proud of my ACLU service and continue to support the ACLU’s matchless efforts to preserve the Bill of Rights, I believe the national ACLU’s position on campaign finance reform is wrong on constitutional and policy grounds,” stated Burt Neuborne, currently the legal director of the Brennan Center and formerly the national legal director of the ACLU. “Opponents of reform should no longer be permitted to hide behind a constitutional smokescreen.”

    1. Speaking of smokescreens:

      Science Project? Or Smoking Device?

      Why not both!

    2. Is this Burt Neuborne the fella who wrote the memo to the local offices not to criticize the national office in public?

  9. Once again, we should realize that free speech absolutism is the answer. What is not the answer is the intellectually feeble pov that even when it comes to free speech, we should be troubled by absolutism.

  10. One of the last refuges of a scroundel, in addition to weeping at statism’s symbols, like cheering for the troopsies, is the assertion that everything is relative and that advocacy of anything absolute is a sign of a lack of sophistication and understanding.

  11. When you repeatedly say people “are found guilty,” this makes it sound like they are being tried in criminal court, when they are not.

    You should explain that they are going before review boards at universities (or whatever) and what is at stake. Presumably the inalienable right to attend a liberal university.

    1. The consequences of being found “guilty” by a university judicial committee can be considerable, especially when schools take on certain offenses that should be left to the local DA’s office (City of Durham not-wisthanding) where the accused will have more access to due process – often not handled in the university level handling of such offenses.

      More still, a comparative misdemeanor thought-crime, may involve penalties from expulsion from indelible marks on their records (and transcripts, screw FERPA, we have higher truths to deal with!) that effectively “fine” the student in lost money wasted on tuition, fees, etc, when he or she thought they were going to a school that, on paper, favored an environment of academic freedom.

      Add to that the loss of confidence that you will be treated with professionalism, respect and due process, the chilling environment such petty kangaroo courts encourage, and the cost becomes shared across the campus community among those who do not follow their empowered better’s scripts.

      1. Gah! “From Expulsion to indelible …” (and no doubt much MUCH more!)

    2. Well when you are talking about public universities financed by taxpayers money, the universities should not be allowed to establish policies that violate Constitutional rights to freedom of speech.

      In private universites as well, receipt of federal funds for grants, programs, etc. has been used as rationale for imposing federal mandates such as Title IX for Athletics, etc.

      That same logic can apply to protecting freedom of speech.

  12. Universities should of course promote very liberal policies on free speech, given their nature as crucibles for experimentation and learning, but you’d be hard pressed to find other institutions that aren’t more restrictive. I presume you guys favor near-dictatorial speech rules in private businesses.

    1. Welp, my previous comment was supposed to appear as a reply here.

      Anyway, you’re free to say whatever you want on your own property, just as you’re free to kick anyone off of your property for any reason, including what they say. Because it’s, you know, you’re property.

      1. Yeah and universities are someone’s property too.

        1. Yeah, the public’s.

          1. But who cares about people who go to public universities?

            1. Ahh, a little elitism from the left…

              1. That’s an everyday thing, Big.

        2. Not a public university’s. That belongs to the citizens. But you knew that, didn’t you?

          1. So do libraries, and they make you whisper.

            1. Well I’m going to sue my local library now. Thanks for the idea.

            2. There’s quite a difference between regulating volume of voice and content of voice.

              You can have the cops called on you if you play music on your own property too loud whether it be Classical or Heavy Metal

    2. I agree with this to a limited point. It just seems such a glaring hypocrisy. I mean, yeah, if you join the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, I’d imagine that you can’t say what you want, when you want when you’re down at the lodge. But the Elks’ don’t bill themselves as an institution encouraging free thought, and a pathway to wisdom and knowledge through the free exchange of ideas.

      And while I can’t speak from experience, your college record might have an effect on your future employment or even other higher education opportunities.

      If you’ve got a mark on your record for harsh and offensive racist behavior because you were caught reading “racist literature”… it just lands with a different weight.

      1. I’m kinda playing devil’s advocate here since I am pretty absolutist when it comes to free speech. But anecdotes don’t amount to much in terms of evidence of a systemwide problem. I’m wary of people obsessing over speech codes, because it’s usually always directed at liberals and is an excuse for wanting affirmative action for your nutty beliefs.

        1. Citations, please?

        2. Aren’t most speech codes drawn up by the left?

          They’re wrong no matter WHO comes up with them, mind you, but the question remains.

  13. Er, yeah. Nobody tells you what you can and can’t say in your own house.

    1. Not yet.

    2. This guy is obviously not married. 🙂

  14. University administrators are looking at their primary and secondary school counterparts with their “Zero Tolerance” rules with envy.

  15. Where’s Mary Stack? This blogpost has her written all over it.

  16. “Because America’s universities tend to tilt left, and because many targets of P.C. censorship are socially conservative, campus censorship has too often come to be understood as a niche issue for the conservative media and blogosphere. This is a bizarre development, not only because free speech was once a central liberal cause but because liberals are by no means immune from campus censorship.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it (a) unfair to anyone persecuted under this insanity and (b) counter to true liberal values, it has a third unintended consequence: it produces stupid liberals. There was nothing more disheartening for me as a fairly liberal student than being represented by vapid, dimwitted group-think trolls who don’t understand their own positions because they’ve never had to defend them against any substantial criticism. I always secretly envied the embattled position of the young republicans on campus because they looked so much smarter by comparison to the PC fucktards stomping around. It may have been projection on my part, but I attributed the election of Bush in 2000 to people’s exhaustion with the self-righeous social piety of the left.

    1. +1 (uh…again)

    2. There was nothing more disheartening for me as a fairly liberal student than being represented by vapid, dimwitted group-think trolls who don’t understand their own positions because they’ve never had to defend them against any substantial criticism.

      Arguably, this is why the campus left too often engages in “direct action” (newspaper theft, heckler vetos, etc) rather than open debate. When confronted with articulate opposition (heck, ANY opposition) they cannot debate since they don’t know how, or worse been told that they don’t need to. Therefore, they have little alternative other than cry racism (and dishonestly play a skewed campus judicial system) or smash things (and enjoy doing so with tacit administrative support). The libertarians and conservatives on campus have fewer friendly agents in administration to help them game the system or grant them immunity from gross misconduct and, conversely, have no alternative but to play the high ground — and be subsequently punished for it.

    3. It’s not just the campus control of student speech; it’s also the one-sided nature of the lessons.

      Example: the standard history textbook version of the New Deal: http://historyhalf.com/new-deal-politics/

  17. Does anyone what kind of legal argument FIRE uses against private universities?

    1. “Does anyone [^] what kind of legal argument FIRE [S] uses against private universities?” Yes. Our son can’t write one fucking sentence and we would like our money back.

      1. Oops I missed a word. I’m glad no one made a big deal about it and pointed it out to everyone as if it was important.

        “Does anyone [know] what kind of legal argument FIRE [there is no S here, retard] uses against private universities.”

        1. Heller,”there is no S here”: bad sentence / reconstruct: S

    2. If they say that they promise free speech but don’t FIRE will “shame” them with a “red light” and some bad PR. However, if it’s one of those schools that says screw free speech (and there are a few of them) they get a groovy munchie inducing Black Light.

      1. I’m all for free speech, but if they’re trying to get the government to restrict a private university’s property rights, then screw them. Sure students can say whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean the university can’t kick them out for whatever reason it wants. They should make some kind of student contract to avoid these kinds of things.

        1. “I’m all for free speech”….really?

        2. On the contrary, almost all private universities explicitly guarantee free speech in their tuition and employment contracts.

    3. I believe that FIRE goes after private universities for hypocrisy and violation of their own policies. If, for example, a private school says that they provide “a Christian Education grounded in traditional values” and has a speech code that enforces that, then fine. If you don’t want that sort of education, you don’t go to that school. On the other hand, if a school promises “A broad-based education based on free-inquiry, including a commitment to free-speech” but has ridiculous speech codes, FIRE will do their best to nail them to the wall.

    4. Breach of contract. Also, some states have statutes that grant students at secular private colleges free speech rights that are coextensive with the First Amendment. California has such a statute.

  18. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..r_embedded

    my guide to all things PC

    1. “my guide to all things PC”

      Dennis Miller is mine “gays can take a dick but they can’t take a joke?”.

  19. PC is primarily a tool of the left. The right can always hit back by using the same tactics and language to whine about all the sexist/racist/classist stuff that comes out of the left about the affluent white male, but that means sinking to their level and acting like pussies* when that’s actually one of the great things about NOT being a leftist.

    * I realize that equating weakness with female genitalia is sexist and serves to reinforce society’s hegemonic capitalistic patriarchal discourse about female identity. My balls made me do it.

    1. lol. Too bad that’s what the right has done. I think the mainstream conservatives I’ve encountered as an adult in the real world have embraced all the attitudes and postures I despised in leftist campus activists. Sarah Palin is, to me, the epitome of that transition. People debate whether she’s a feminist, but of course she is. She’s an ignorant self-entitled woman who blames all her short comings on other people. But if you disagree with her it’s because you hate her large family. lol.

    2. “My balls made me do it”

      …and you wonder why there are so few women posting on this article.

  20. The decades long indoctrination of kids in grade school has caused the pervasive niggardly use of the english language. People are afraid to call a spade a spade. This intentional misuse of of the language has led to dishonesty in peoples’ speech and how they express themselves in the written language. The zeal to avoid offending some has resulted in everyone being insulted.

    1. Oh boy! Its getting cold in here I’d better throw another faggot into the fire.

  21. How does a thinking adult attend one of these colleges today?

    At one time the young men and women attending college were treated as young men and women. Today they are treated as children in an advanced PC Indoctrination Program.

  22. Right on, Maxwell.
    I’m also fairly liberal, and dislike the kind of mushy thinking that dismisses rather than engages with conservatives. Some of them are smart! Their arguments have to be addressed!

    That said, I’m actually fairly ambivalent about PC as a cultural practice. I was raised with it from very early childhood (I remember how frustrated I was that Marx Brothers movies had minstrel numbers interspersed with the good stuff) and I think of it as an extension of simple politeness. “Please” and “Thank You” grease the wheels of social interaction; so does sensitivity to different kinds of people. It’s common sense, and it’s a learning process. (I didn’t know much about disability advocacy until this year; I’ve only recently started to make a note of Ramadan so I don’t invite people to lunch when they’re supposed to be fasting.)

    I do think schools should teach sensitivity, at least K-12 schools, because school is to a large extent about behavioral skills as well as academic skills. School teaches you to cooperate, delay gratification, and so on… it should also try to teach you not to call people nappy-headed ho’s. At the college level, though, I don’t want the school to be in loco parentis, so there’s no sense restricting speech. We generally concede that a college student’s personal behavior is up to him.

  23. There’s also the issue of selective enforcement. How can universities bend over backward to protect the sensitivities of designated minority groups in the interest of “civil discourse” yet turn a blind eye toward Brownshirt tactics used by leftist groups on campus? The universities are obviously biased, and they’re promoting liberal political agendas at taxpayer expense.

  24. “Please” and “Thank You” grease the wheels of social interaction

    It’s called civility. It’s always annoyed me that so many people today can’t seem to tell the difference between that and PC. Some seem to be deliberately UNcivil, rude, and impolite (to be redundant) as if they are proving how un-PC they are. Maybe it’s just an excuse.

    1. In my opinion one should always preface their opinion with “in my opinion” otherwise people might think you to be a know it all. 🙂

  25. The PC gulags are the product of an educational establishment dedicated to reason and logic at the expense of the heart. As J. Donald Walters argues in his fine book, Education for Life, it is feeling, balanced but not bullied by reason, that enables us to know what is right and wrong.

  26. This reminds me of my friend who used the word “blackball” in a college paper to reference Hollywood types who were suspected commies.

    His prof. thought it was a racist word and had a meeting with him–threatening to bring the “case” to the administration.It ended OK, but I’m sure my friend’s reputation and grade shrank because of collegiate ignorance.

  27. How can the author say that it is ‘beyond left and right’, when he clearly only considers liberals capable of censoring on campus speech.

    When I was at school, I was suspended due to calling a conservative Christian teacher a ‘fucking moron,’ because he didn’t believe in evolution. My other friend was forced to change his T-shirt at a state college (not a religious one) because his shirt featured a picture of Jesus masturbating.

    Conservatives are even worse than liberals when you start insulting their sacred cows.

    1. Thanks, Steve, for pointing this out. The reason PC hasn’t died is because the people who use to oppose it ended up embracing its tactics instead. I graduated from the University of California in 1993 and have been tremendously disappointed at how all the things I hated about PC have been adopted by people on the right. “Criticizing Bush means you hate the troops” is the conservative equivalent of “criticizing affirmative action means you hate blacks.”

      Finding someone guilty of racism for reading the wrong book isn’t that far removed from kicking someone out of a public event solely because they had a “John Kerry” bumper sticker on their car.

      Correct language: the demand of conservatives that people use conservative wording exclusively to prove that they don’t have an anti-conservative bias. For example, “death tax” instead of “estate tax”. Or “private account” instead of “Social Security privatization”, and then “personal account” instead of “private account” when “private account” didn’t poll well.

      Free speech zones? Conservatives embraced them happily when they were used to suppress leftist anti-war protestors, and protestors at Republican conventions.

      I’d like to think that libertarians would hate all these tactics no matter who employed them, but from reading the comments in this thread, it’s sadly obvious that what most of the posters here find so offensive is that it’s not so much these tactics, but the use of these tactics by leftists.

    2. It helps to read the article. The author criticizes the intimidation of anti-war and pro-Obama individuals by school administrators. Unless you think that liberals were responsible for that.

    3. “When I was at school, I was suspended due to calling a conservative Christian teacher a ‘fucking moron,’ because he didn’t believe in evolution. My other friend was forced to change his T-shirt at a state college (not a religious one) because his shirt featured a picture of Jesus masturbating.

      Conservatives are even worse than liberals when you start insulting their sacred cows.”

      That’s your argument? Calling a teacher a “fucking moron” is roughly equivalent to not believing in evolution on the stupidity scale. And wearing a shirt featuring a masturbating Jesus isn’t much brighter, but as parameters of good taste in a communal setting go, I’d love to see you try and prove that the reaction would have been any different if the masturbator on the shirt had been anyone else.

  28. Personally I’d like to see “homo erectus” removed from science vocabulary because the definition implies that man once thought with his penis.

  29. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  30. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on

  31. That’s your argument? Calling a teacher a “fucking moron” is roughly equivalent to not believing in evolution on the stupidity scale. And wearing a shirt featuring a masturbating Jesus isn’t much brighter, but as parameters of good taste in a communal setting go, I’d lovereplica omega to see you try and prove that the reaction would have been any different if the masturbator on the shirt had been anyone else.

  32. That’s your argument? Calling a teacher a “fucking moron” is roughly equivalent to not believing in evolution on the stupidity scale. And wearing a shirt featuring a masturbating Jesus isn’t much brighter, but as parameters of good taste in a communal setting go, I’d love to see you try and prove that the reaction would have been any different if the masturbator on the shirt had been anyone else.

  33. That’s your argument? Calling a teacher a “fucking moron” is roughly equivalent to not believing in evolution on the stupidity scale. And wearing a shirt featuring a masturbating Jesus isn’t much brighter, but as parameters of good taste in a communal setting go, I’d love to see you try and prove that thereplica omega reaction would have been any different if the masturbator on the shirt had been anyone else.

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