Campus Free Speech

College Students Want to Make Everything Free Except Their Minds

Why activists at Yale, Missouri, Claremont McKenna, Amherst, and everywhere else need free speech.



At least it's not just about offensive Halloween costumes, anymore: Students across the country engaged in protests Thursday and Friday as part of the Million Student March for debt forgiveness, free college, and a $15 minimum wage.

I have serious reservations about these goals—a higher minimum wage would cripple the opportunities of young people, debt forgiveness would punish taxpayers for the crimes of the privileged, and free college just isn't very useful for poor people. What's more, students can't articulate a way to pay for them, as evidenced by this painful exchange between an organizer and a not-unreasonable Neil Cavuto. (Read Scott Shackford for more on this specific topic.)

But students have every right to fight for the things they want, and their critics have every right to point out why they're wrong.

A necessary precondition for this exchange of ideas is a culture of robust free speech, particularly on college campuses. Unfortunately, a paramount goal of a non-trivial number of these recent student protests seems to be outlawing offensive ideas. In addition to the sad spectacle at Yale and the moment of censorship at Mizzou, there was this depressing turn of events at Amherst, according to Eugene Volokh:

From a statement by the group Amherst Uprising:

"5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the "All Lives Matter" and "Free Speech" posters. Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

6. President Martin must issue a statement of support for the revision of the Honor Code to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech."

According to the president of the Amherst College Republicans, the "All Lives Matter" posters were pro-life posters (or antiabortion posters, if you prefer). Here is what appears to be a statement from the students who put up the "All Lives Matter" posters. If the critics of the posters would like to pass along their views, beyond those I quote and link to from Amherst Uprising, I'd of course be delighted to excerpt and link to them.

Additionally, students at Claremont McKenna College in California succeeded in ousting an administrator for failing to do her job, as they put it: "It's literally your jobs to take care of us when we don't feel safe on this campus." The Daily Beast's Emily Shire reported:

However, [Claremont McKenna College student body President William Su] heartily endorsed Spellman's resignation. "It's not about intentions. It's about perceptions. Students don't even feel her office is a safe space," Su told The Daily Beast. "I'm pretty happy she resigned. I think it's the best move for our institution."

What's happening here is that students are conflating very different kinds of safety. Of course they should feel safe from actual violence. Universities are in fact obligated to protect them from threats to their physical security and in that specific sense, enforce "safe" spaces. But no university can—or should—guarantee students protection from emotional or intellectual dangers.

These kinds of safe spaces wouldn't actually be very safe for activist students. That's because what constitutes "hate speech" or offensive conduct is highly subjective; one student's antiwar protest evinces disrespect for the military in the eyes of a veteran, another student's BlackLivesMatter rally is interpreted as anti-cop by someone whose father is a police officer, demonstrations against Israel are considered anti-Semitic by Jewish students, and on and on.

Students who want to change the world—for better or worse—shouldn't be so hasty to codify a new regime of feelings-protection. People who think they lack real power are precisely the sort of people who ought to cherish free speech most strongly.

I participated in a HuffPost Live discussion on this topic on Friday (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Samantha Harris was also a guest). Watch it here.

Hat tip: Headline inspired by a tweet from @icouldbeahacker

NEXT: Kung Fu Meets the Apocalypse in Into the Badlands

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  1. What’s more, students can’t articulate a way to pay for them, as evidenced by this painful exchange between an organizer and a not-unreasonable Neil Cavuto.

    Well, they’re not economics majors. And really, with the apparent state of higher education, even if they were…

    1. Moar taxes, less 1%, see that wasn’t so hard ! Everything is paid for.

      -prog derp

      1. Rather than poking fun at the victims of micro-aggression, we should be working to make sure that more taxpayer dollars are directed towards efforts to suppress offensive “Gmail parodies” and any other forms of speech that target members of the academic community. Authorities in New York have made a good deal of progress in this direction, but clearly more can be done to inform students and professors alike of their rights in this regard. A small start in this direction would be to hold a series of nationwide seminars and conferences highlighting the bold collaboration between NYU officials and Manhattan prosecutors that enabled the progress represented by America’s leading criminal “satire” case, documented at:

        1. I think it’s hilarious what these stupid children are doing to their future. They are going to get to experience what it’s like to live the way the Russians did in the 1950s; long waiting lines, a near poverty lifestyle for 95% of the population, zero free speech and near zero human rights.

          And the beauty of it all is they are going to vote to live this way! I just love the poetic justice of it all. Thank God I never procreated.

          IT’S ALL OVER FOLKS! And the socialists won.

    2. What, reading the first half of Salon‘s review of Piketty doesn’t count for anything?

    3. today’s economic students

      assume a can opener free lunch

    4. Idiots like Krugman were economics majors.

      1. Krugman isn’t an idiot. He’s something much worse.

        1. Yeah, the Nobel Prize in Economics isn’t a joke like the Nobel Peace Prize. There is little doubt that Krugman is, or at least was, a competent economist.

          I think he caught whatever Diane Ravitch has.

    5. They’re a bunch of whiney sniveling rug rats who used to see their parents get money from an atm and think it was free.

    6. I was hoping Cavuto would do the math for her. She said she had no problem paying 90% of her pay in taxes. I would have asked her, so she works her butt off at school and gets great grades, works her ass off for a company 40-80 hours a week and makes $300,000 a year that she would be willing to pay 90% of that in taxes? How much will she be taking home? $30K? And that’s not including state, local, municipality, etc., tax. Would she be wanting those who make 15 an hr to pay higher taxes? If she said no, which she probably wouldn’t, and they were taxed at the current level, they’d be making only 1500 less a year. So her hard work at school and the office would make her just a little more than the hamburger flipper. If she were making 250K she’d be making less. But that is ok with her right?

      1. Well usually the rates are marginal, so only what is above 250 grand would be taxed at 90%.

        1. You are correct sir. I forgot it was the 2d of the ten planks of the communist manifesto. Maybe that’s why Cavuto has his own show and I don’t.

  2. Thanks for continually injecting sanity into this, Robby. I feel like these recent protests are bringing all of the underlying issues with the modern social justice movement and authoritarianism to a new audience.

    1. Agreed. The startling mix of authoritarianism, immaturity, and derptitude that comprises the SJW movement is now on full display to the nation.

    2. Word. I don’t know if all this is new, or I just haven’t been paying attention. But I am glad to see all of Robby’s fine reporting on the subject, although I do find it horribly depressing.

      1. Robby’s fine reporting

        That’s not how you spell “hair.”

    3. Wait 20-30 years when these air heads are in charge.

  3. I am sick and tired about the argument that free speech gives you the right to say whatever you want, even though what you’re saying could harm me emotionally. I have the right to go about my life without hearing any of your hate speech, that is what the first amendment is all about. If you disagree with me I am going to get my friends together to kick your ass, you bigot.

    a not-unreasonable Neil Cavuto.

    What is unreasonable about Cavuto is the size of his head – that thing triggers me like whoa.


  4. I wonder if the fact we spend so much time online is why so many today link words with violence? Think about it, our virtual selves are a huge part of the modern identity, and all that identity is made up of is pixels on a screen. There is nothing physical about it. When all you can do to a large swath of your social circle is talk at them, what you say becomes much more important.

    Course they could also just be fascists who see an opportunity to crush all that opposed them.

  5. Not everyone at Claremont McKenna is as douchey as Su, fortunately. Don’t miss the comments.

    1. That was an awesome editorial. Good for them.

    2. Good share, Nikki.

      We are adults, and we need to be mature enough to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings, rather than demanding that those around us cater to our individual needs.

      1. This is some triggering shit. Where can I find the number to 9-1-1 ?!?!?!!

        1. Agreed. My experiences have been invalidated

    3. It’s a holiday in Amherst
      Where people hates the black
      A holiday in Amherst
      Where you’ll kiss ass or crack

      Safe Space, Safe Space, Safe Space, Safe Space,
      And it’s a holiday in Amherst
      Where you’ll do what you’re told
      A holiday in Amherst
      In the media free zone

      1. It’s tough kid, but it’s life!

    4. Anyone else find that the student dissent pieces are competently written, in comparison to the word salads that are published by the student protestors?

      1. Yes.

        1. Phew. I softened the language because I could envision you posting some crappy student responses to prove that I was overgeneralizing.

          1. I’m sure they have their share of less-than-articulates, but the difference between this editorial and what we have seen from the other side is striking.

            1. Are you going to criticize their works without even providing alternative articles you think would have been better? For shame.

      2. And notice how emotionally charged those word salads are. Don’t bother bringing rationality into the debate; you’re just invalidating their perceived oppression.

      3. Everybody knows salads are better for you than processed fare.

    5. It’s a good article but this remains: the perpetually offended got someone fired and, as one can see from the comments, many of the students are intimidated and scared and not unreasonably so. How many of the people in the comments would have spoken up without the benefit of anonymity? Those opposed to the mob penned an article that isn’t going to do jack shit-the administrator is still fired and the social justice jihad continues unabated and will claim more scalps.

  6. Rico, are you aware that Welch and Shackford have been encroaching on your turf today? You should go kick their asses!

    1. On the contrary, I am so grateful for the assistance. Too. Many. College. Outrage. Stories.

      1. Keep up the good work – the Derp Mines are productive lately.

        1. Hit a rich and extensive vein.

        2. Seconded. Robby takes some shit around here, but he is doing an excellent job covering this stuff.

          1. H&R isn’t a safe space yet, everyone takes some shit from time to time.

            1. Who’s gonna start the protest for a Reason safe space? Robby?
              Make some other unreasonable demands while you’re at it.

              1. I demand that the Commentariat’s debts be forgiven and Shikha Dalmia be forcefully loaded into the cargo hold of the next freighter bound for Calcutta.

                1. And an edit button.
                  Ok, I think that went too far.

            2. As it should be.

              The constant criticism of his “social signalling” does get a bit old, though. I think he has gotten the message. And decided to ignore it.

              1. And what could be more libertarian than that?

  7. Our responses should be situational.

    Sometimes it’s best to reason with people.

    When it comes to college kids going after free speech, the best response is probably severe ridicule.

    Ridicule is what they’re most sensitive, too, and to a certain extent, it’s what they’re protesting against.

    These people need to be ridiculed in public. The public needs to see them as ridiculous, and the college kids themselves need to understand the power of ridicule. And not just the brainy kind.

    Senseless, stupid, vulgar, ridicule is called for. If what these shitheads want comes at the price of free speech, then fuck these kids, their anti-racist, anti-misogynist, and anti-homophobic sensitives, and fuck everything else they care about, too.

    1. If you can convince the highschool kids that these college kids are idiots to be laughed at, then this is all over. The incoming student is more important than the current student to colleges, and these movement require a constant stream of gullible freshman to make up for attrition due to graduation. One bad year and they’ll lose their link into converting the incoming class.

      1. Most people are too busy drinking and trying to get laid, at least that was my whole goal of college, to give a crap about these tools. Any rise will be from the alums when their school is so badly ridiculed and employers look with disdain on their precious degrees that the boards will act against the progressive profs and idiot students. A lot of schools though are beyond hope, watching them implode and the tears will fill a very dark place in many a heart !

      2. these movement require a constant stream of gullible freshman to make up for attrition due to graduation.

        I suspect they probably see more attrition from fucktards flunking out their Aggrieved Studies courses than graduation. Think about how stupid one would have to be flunk out of “Basic Derp 101”. Pants shittingly stupid.

    2. Which is undoubtedly why they so militantly push for restrictions on free speech and vigorously enforced “safe space” zones in the first place. So they can’t be ridiculed for the overpowering absurdity of their worldview.

    3. I accidentally left The Daily Show running for a few minutes the other day and big surprise it was all “Trump is stupid” jokes. These kids need to get the Daily Show treatment – but they won’t.

      1. I expect there to be at least one correspondent piece on the Daily Show that lampoons this idiocy. Not that I’ll watch to find out, but it’s all too stupid for them to ignore it.

        Colbert did a great job highlight OWS’s buffoonishness. It’d be a shame if he or someone like him did not do the same for this crap.

        1. Remember that awkward moment when the Daily Show ridiculed anti-vaxxers, outing them as primarily Whole Foods-shopping yuppy types? The audience reacted with a few uncomfortable chuckles. Maybe it’s not as much a safe space as they thought. But I doubt they’ll do it again. Who knows, I haven’t watched that garbage in years.

          But I do applaud South Park for launching the first volley of ridicule.

  8. I have serious reservations about these goals?

    Serious reservations should be reserved for those instances when you’re inclined to think that someone is more than likely wrong. Not when they’re stupendously and stupidly dead wrong.

    1. So what exactly should Robby have said? Maybe you can suggest something to him. I mean, seeing as you seem to want him to write this article specifically for you and your preferences, it’s the least you could do to help him out, especially since you’re not going to pay him anything.

      1. I know you get super butthurt when someone disagrees with Robby’s argumentation but this is a bit off the deep end.

        1. So no suggestions? Well, when you don’t pay for product, you get what you get, I guess.

          1. Why do I need to make an alternative? Can one disagree about income tax without proposing some alternative in the same breath?

            1. So you just want to endlessly whine about his writing. What. A. Surprise.

              1. Endlessly? I wrote two sentences that seemed to cause a deep ache in your anal cavity.

        2. You didn’t disagree with his argumentation. You nitpicked his choice of words without even providing an alternative you think would have been better.

          1. Hi Me Too, welcome to the party. I don’t suppose you’re accusing someone else of being nitpicky in order to be ironic, right?

            1. No, just to be accurate. Like usual.

        3. This stuff needs to reach a broader audience than just people who already think all of the goals are bullshit. I see no problem with Robby’s trying to put things gently and tactfully. Sure, he could have worded it more strongly. Maybe “these goals are clearly contrary to any notion of liberal education” or something like that. But so what?

          1. Indeed so what. I wasn’t making a federal case out of it, unlike the Butthurt Brigade that goes into a frenzy anytime someone even softly criticizes a tertiary string of words in Robby’s articles. I would’ve said the same thing if Scott Shackford or David Harsanyi wrote the same thing, but it wouldn’t have elicited the same “YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE!” response that you see when you say it on a Robby article.

            1. Yeah, your initial comment was hardly anything to get worked up about.

            2. As opposed to the Butthurt Brigade that goes into a frenzy over Soave’s turns of phrase.

              1. Can’t argue with that that! This thread is absolutely awash in commentarians out for Robby’s blood.

                1. you get two thats. everybody gets two.

      2. “These goals are fucking retarded” and something about woodchippers, maybe?

        1. That’s the level of certainty someone should be shooting for when addressing these types of arguments, yes.

      3. Robby just wants to appease the Salon crowd!



    2. “Wring” and “dead”. I like the way those go together.

      1. “Wrong” and “dead”. I like the way those go together too.

  9. college students want to make everything free but their minds

    In 1992 an all-female R&B group named En Vogue released a song called “Free Your Mind,” and the chorus went like this:

    Free your mind and the rest will follow
    Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow.
    Free your mind and the rest will follow
    Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow

    En Vogue must be rolling over in their collective grave.

    1. En Vogue is so problematic, I can’t even.

    2. They were buried in a mass grave?

      1. In the Great R&B Massacres of the late 1990s.

        *sheds a single tear*

        1. Oh Babyface, we hardly knew ye!

    3. Microagressions all around

    4. I remember that song. Lots of tits.

  10. As repulsive as the little Maoists are, the craven cowards that run these schools are even more disgusting. All they do is trip over themselves to simper and apologize to the mob, which only encourages more mob intimidation over ever more trivial “offenses”.

    If my kids were of that age now, I’d do everything in my power to convince them to stay the fuck away from the American university system. Study overseas, join the military, do an apprenticeship, anything but attending the Junior Che Training Program these shitbags are running.

  11. Every one of these stories just makes me laugh at Sander’s ‘plan’ to make college education ‘free’ – why on earth would we want to subsidize more of this?

    The walking out stuff is also hilarious in its own right, “we demand free education, which you can see we highly value!” Why would students walking out of class in any way motivate me to say “you’re goddamned right we should forgive all student debt!”?

    *goes back to playing Fallout 4*

  12. We are having a Cultural Revolution. After that we get State Capitalism. Well that is the way it happened in China.

    1. So far this cultural revolution doesn’t involve millions of deaths, so I remain a little optimistic.

      1. Bernie hasn’t been elected yet.

      2. Killing millions through starvation and economic stupidity doesn’t happen over night. These things take time.

        1. It probably helps that the US isn’t full of dirt poor peasants too.
          Am I being too serious again?

          1. Obesity alone buys us a couple months of extended survival when the crops fail.

  13. I’m thinking there should be a counter-movement to the Social Justice Warriors. They imagine that the only people against them are homophobes and the KKK–maybe because there is no clearly identified counter-movement to oppose them.

    We should create that movement, and I’m thinking we should call ourselves “Poetic Justice Warriors”.

    For instance, If you think people who don’t work for a living, finance their college educations on the taxpayers’ dime, and spend their days complaining about the capitalism that makes that possible, should be reduced to begging charitable Christian organizations to feed and house them–if they can’t find anyone other than the taxpayers to pay them to do anything?

    Then you’re a Poetic Justice Warrior!

    If you think it’s funny that people who screamed for ObamaCare can no longer afford to pay their doubling premiums–or that the ObamaCare system if failing because the kids who were all in favor of it can’t be persuaded to buy insurance for themselves?

    Then you’re a Poetic Justice Warrior!

    If you think it’s funny when a Social Justice Warrior can’t find a menial job because the minimum wage is too damn high? If you think it’s funny when a Social Justice Warrior can’t find an affordable apartment in rent controlled Santa Monica or San Francisco?

    Then you’re a Poetic Justice Warrior!

    1. PJW? I think you need a better acronym.

      1. Libertarian Enemy of Prog Encroaching Regulation?

        Campus Undermining Narrative Team?

        Saving Campus Undergrads Minds?

        1. Freedom Advocacy Gang?

      2. PJ Warrior sounds like it would be fitting for this guy:

        Pardon my linking ignorance.

        1. Bonus points to Gillespie for the phrase, “this guy is hipster douchitude on a cracker.”

      3. PJW is fine.

        And it’s like Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.

        It needs to be the same as theirs on the positive side–yet diametrically opposed.

        Social Justice Warrior

        Poetic Justice Warrior

        We’re fighting for justice, too!

        The great thing about being a Poetic Justice Warrior, too, is that often we’re not even talking about Poetic Justice Warrior doing anything. It’s just the universe trying to teach Social Justice Warriors right from wrong!

        We’re trying to warn Social Justice Warriors about poetic justice, really.

        Poetic justice is not a hoax!

        1. When gun control makes violent criminals feel safe to invade a Social Justice Warrior’s home and shoot him in the belly–that isn’t the fault of Poetic Justice Warriors.

          But it might be our fault if we fail to warn those Social Justice Warriors about poetic justice!

    2. I already made an early 90s hip-hop reference, Ken.

      1. Yes, and it was idiotic because Free You Mind And Your Ass Will Follow would have been better.

    3. Ken, you really think you can oppose the left and maintain control of your own narrative among the apathetic? I do not think you quite understand what you are up against. No matter what you do or say you will be equated with every bike thing under the sun. The question is if you can handle the shitstorm, not that you can prevent it.

      1. We’re not hoping to convince them, so much. It’s their audience that I’m really worried about.

        We shouldn’t let people watch this shit fly unopposed.

        The SJWs are the enemy of liberty, and they’re battling us for public opinion. Public opinion is the battlefield, and we shouldn’t cede so much as an inch of it.

        1. Was not suggesting that we should, just that you should be prepared not recognize yourself in how you are described.

    4. Wasn’t the term for this Cultural Libertarian, or something?

  14. I hate to say I told you so…

    As a long term advocate for mandatory cop physical fitness testing (DOJ stats show fit cops are less likely to incur civil liability, commit suicide, commit crime; use excessive force, kill a suspect, use force in general, abuse sick leave, get fired, quit), I’ve said the barriers are massive.

    Perfect example

    It’s ‘discrimination’…..le/1562995

    1. They should just have every beat cop have part of their job be an hour a day in some form of martial arts training. Preferably one specializing in submission holds. Health costs will be significantly lowered and it can be sold as a benefit to keep officers safe.

      1. A few PD’s do this

        A local PD gets 4 hrs a week gym time including showers

        I train on my lunch time sometimes

        At the fire station

        Ready for a call in a minute same as eating at a restaurant

        But you gotta have some accountability for fitness

        ESPECIALLY if you are paying for workout time

        Fit cops benefit EVERYBODY

        but no, the dept gets sued for discrimination.

        It’s harder for women to meet fitness standards , so it’s discrimination in their minds

        At one point many fire depts actually had LOWER standards for female applicants

        I’m a former firefighter. I don’t care what gender a firefighter is but if me and my love ones are in a fire the FF better be able to shoulder carry us out so it’s ridiculous to have two different standards based on gender

        literally different weight DUMMIES for testing

        Most of that insanity has gone bye bye

        It’s more disparate impact theory nonsense. if the test has disparate impact based on race or gender they say it’s discriminatory. we saw this based on race in CT years ago where white cops sued when minorities with lower test scores beat them out for promotion

        My state outlawed racial preference by initiative

    2. Judges are idiots. OTOH who ever wrote the policy manual was stupid. They needed to show a connection between ability (fitness) and performance.

  15. Im making over $9k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,


  16. intellectual dangers

    I just can’t get my little brain around that phrase.

  17. states we do not tolerate

    You don’t what? You don’t… what? YOU DON’T WHAT?! Tell me what you don’t tolerate again!

  18. Dear Media:

    Stop rewarding the victims.

    that is all.

  19. These people are on a social justice jihad, or crusade if you prefer that term-what’s occurring has a tinge of religious fervor to my eye. Good luck reasoning with those whose beliefs are only nominally grounded in reality and good luck escaping their scrutiny. The acquiescence of the various school administrations is arguably worse. They are selling out the sane students, who will be victimized by the emboldened crusaders, to spare the feelings of a relatively small percentage of vicious students. I feel bad for the students at these schools that only want to be left alone so they can learn.

    If this really is indicative of the course the future will take, we are in deep trouble. After all, today’s students are tomorrow’s HR managers, politicians, lawyers, judges, and CEOs.

  20. Students across the country engaged in protests Thursday and Friday as part of the Million Student March for debt forgiveness, free college, and a $15 minimum wage.

    So, adjusting for their beliefs about the effect of raising the minimum wage, they marched for the cause of . . . naked selfishness?

    Here I am, working a job to get the things I want, like a sucker.

    1. Free college and a $15 minimum wage = “We should pay less for stuff we value! Other people should pay more for things they value!”

  21. Additionally, students at Claremont McKenna College in California succeeded in ousting an administrator for failing to do her job, as they put it: “It’s literally your jobs to take care of us when we don’t feel safe on this campus.”


    I can’t even… I’m done…

  22. I became an aerospace engineer sans degree. I feel not one whit of sympathy for any of these fucks in college.

  23. …and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

    What a great idea! We could send them all to places where their defective thinking could be replaced with more enlightened views. A sort of re-education. But we don’t want the idea to be intimidating or sound threatening, so we’ll refer to the experience as something fun sounding. I know…how about “camp”? Yeah, that’s the ticket. We’ll send them to “Re-education Camp”. Doesn’t that sound like a good thing?

  24. The Cavuto interview was indeed painful to watch. Our Marxist educators have indeed raised a generation of useful idiots….

  25. The Cultural Revolution’s “Struggle Session”: Now coming to a campus near you!

  26. I disagree with the headline. Their minds are free, free from any intelligent thought. These kids are being educated beyond their level of intelligence. No one forces these people to get a loan they can’t afford. I wonder how many actually had a job, a real job, or a real life with bills.

  27. Sorry , don’t have time to read it , but Great Title .

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