Hillary Clinton

Mitch Daniels Wasn't Kidding About Free Speech on Campus

As foreshadowed in his Reason TV interview, Purdue president gets free-speech 'green light' from FIRE


Putting the "P" in "free speech." ||| The Exponent
The Exponent

In my interview with former Indiana governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, we had the following exchange on the always-contentious topic of campus free speech:

REASON: For those of us who don't spend a lot of time on college campuses and get our information through oftentimes partisan media, it can seem like it's just a hellbroth of micro-triggering and people in free-speech cages over in a corner. What's your assessment of the climate of free speech on campus nationwide, and at Purdue? Is it as bad as some of us suspect? 

Mitch Daniels: In places it obviously is. We all read about them and you just shake your head. I can tell you that Purdue's different, and I think you don't hear about the places where free speech is respected and protected; naturally enough you don't. We feel very strongly about it; about to take some future actions to ensure that what's been a good record remains that way. And we've indentified some small policies that were less than ideal and we're changing those. But no, I think that the spirit of free inquiry is still strong on our campus, and I hope on most. But clearly there are places where it's violated in truly unfortunate ways. 

The interview was conducted on May 5. Ten days later, Daniels put his money where his mouth was. Here's a press release from that day issued by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the terrific campus free-speech group:

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., May 15, 2015—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is pleased to announce that Purdue University has earned FIRE's highest, "green light" rating for free speech. With help from FIRE, Purdue revised its speech-related policies to comply with the First Amendment. Purdue further affirmed its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression by adopting a statement similar to the University of Chicago's laudable statement on academic freedom, endorsed by FIRE in January. […]

FIRE began working to reform Purdue's speech codes in September 2014, when FIRE sent a memorandum covering Purdue's speech policies to two members of the student government. Students Andrew Zeller and Emilie Watson worked with FIRE's [Azhar] Majeed to advocate for policy reform on campus and to introduce a resolution in student government calling for the necessary revisions. Purdue President Mitch Daniels supported eliminating the university's speech codes as well.

Purdue becomes the 21st green light institution in FIRE's Spotlight database of over 400 colleges and universities, as well as the second university in a month to earn a green light rating.

It's worth noting here that Mitch Daniels is a longtime Republican. Was a time when many people assumed that free speech, especially the risqué stuff you'd hear on college campuses, was a particularly left-of-center value. But as Nick Gillespie and I observed in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, "It is a shock to tender ears, we realize, but by any meaningful yardstick, Democrats do not care about free speech, and Republicans do not care about free enterprise."

With some polls showing majority Democratic support for criminalizing "hate speech"; with the party looking set to nominate a presidential candidate who is historically awful on free speech, and with more actions like those taken by Daniels, the old assumptions may be reversing themselves.

I wrote about "When the Left Turned Against Free Speech" last year, and after the jump you can find a talk I gave on the subject in Santa Barbara earlier this year.

And here's that Mitch Daniels interview:

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  1. Wait, you guys wrote a book? Why didn’t you tell anyone?

  2. I really wish Daniels had really jumped into the 2012 presidential fray. He would’ve been a candidate from one of the two teams I actually would’ve felt good voting for. Don’t know how much truth there was that he steered clear because of his wife’s shenanigans but it’s unfortunate he wasn’t in the race.

    1. Once he was crushed by competitors/media, would he be allowed to go back to Purdue and remain President there? Seems like he made the right choice, and did some good rather than tilt at windmills.

      1. I’d be fine with that except for the fact that those windmills seem to be rotating awfully fast and we seem to be getting thrown into them.


        1. I had never seen that before. Thank you.

  3. Apparently my alma mater sucks at free speech.

  4. Purdue becomes the 21st green light institution in FIRE’s Spotlight database of over 400 colleges and universities, as well as the second university in a month to earn a green light rating.

    Unfortunately, FIRE’s got a LONG way to go.

  5. Hail, hail to old Purdue!
    All hail to our old gold and black!
    Hail, hail to old Purdue!
    Our friendship may she never lack.
    Ever grateful, ever true,
    Thus we raise our song anew
    of the days we’ve spent with you,
    All hail our own Purdue!

    /Purdue Engineering Alumnus

    1. You did give my team Mike Alstott. Thanks.

      1. No, PL, the NFL’s anti-free enterprise, socialist conscription regime, i.e., the draft, gave you guys Mike Alstott.

        BTW, I have heard that No. 40 has been experiencing some cognitive issues. Have you?

        1. No, I haven’t, but I sure hope not. He was an epic running back.

        2. You mean a guy who plowed into piles on every single down might be experiencing brain issues? No. Way.

    2. My eldest son just graduated with a dual degree in EE/Physics. (Physics for fun. EE for $).

  6. Was a time when many people assumed that free speech, especially the risqu? stuff you’d hear on college campuses, was a particularly left-of-center value.

    Nothing leftists liked more than having to defend their notions to challengers.

  7. the always-contentious topic of campus free speech

    Damn it, Matt, how about a trigger warning?

  8. Too bad Mitch Daniels is a big-time drug warrior. All the more surprising since he was busted for selling drugs in college but got off with a slap on the wrist.

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