Campus Free Speech

Silencing Students: The 8 Most Loathsome Campus Censors of 2015

A banner year for college censorship.


Every year brings new examples of ruthless college administrators trampling the free expression rights of students and faculty, and 2015 was no different. Here are eight of the most notable campus censors I wrote about this year.

Honorable Mention: Eric Posner

Eric Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, hasn't actually censored anyone, so he doesn't make the list. But he certainly provides a great deal of intellectual ammunition for people working to restrict free expression rights—including and especially university administrators, as well as the police. Whether he is arguing that 18-year-olds are better off with fewer rights, or that vast infringements on internet freedom are necessary in order to protect the U.S. from ISIS, Posner is a reliable ally of would-be muzzlers everywhere.


8. The Student Bar Association at the University of Missouri's School of Law

One might expect law students to have a better grasp of First Amendment case law than the average university administrator. But the University of Missouri's Student Bar Association somehow managed to craft a speech code that was not only just as bad as anything the campus bureaucrats might have come up with, but also grammatically incomprehensible.

The code, intended as a mandatory social media use policy for students in MU's law school, forbade students from commenting "despairingly on others." No, not disparagingly, but despairingly. It also disallowed "negative or inappropriate content," required transparency, but prohibited excessive transparency. As I observed in November, "The rules not only restrict speech—they also compel it; 'Engage in conversation,' the policy blithely commands."

The Student Bar Association evidently believed it could require other students to monitor the web and report all potential infractions to the group. "It is the duty of each member of the SBA to report instances of possible non-compliance with this policy to the Vice-President of the SBA," according to the policy.

Thankfully, the SBA caved to much-deserved criticism and scrubbed the rules from its website. At least these student-censors weren't very brave.

7. Rochelle Mason

There's nothing novel about a college administrator punishing someone for a speech transgression, but Colorado College's Rochelle Mason distinguished herself by levelling an almost unbelievable sanction on student Thaddeus Pryor: a two-year ban from campus.

What was Pryor's crime? He participated in an offensive discussion via the anonymous commenting app, Yik Yak. Someone posted "#blackwomenmatter," and Pryor responded, "they matter, they're just not hot." The remark was cruel, but Pryor owed the campus an apology, not his scalp.

It's not clear how administrators deduced that Pryor had made the comment, but he was soon called before Mason, an associate dean of students, where he confessed and apologized. She subsequently exiled him from campus until August 28, 2017. Thanks to the timely intervention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the punishment was eventually reduced to a six-month suspension. Still, half a year in academic limbo is quite a punishment for someone whose only crime was a thoughtless comment about not being attracted to black women. David Hendrickson, a professor of political science at CC, told The Cipher that Pryor's treatment was "inappropriate and unjustifiable."

"The punishments have left entirely unclear the boundaries of acceptable speech," said Hendrickson. "A lot of students feel that they are walking on egg shells."

6. Feminists United on Campus

Tragedy struck the University of Mary Washington last April: a female student, Grace Mann, was murdered inside her off-campus home. The perpetrator, a male roommate, was immediately caught.

Feminists United on Campus, an activist group at UMW, used Mann's death to argue that the campus was unsafe for women—not because murderers were roaming the streets, but because UMW had failed to prohibit offensive speech. Specifically, members of FUC were incensed that the campus had not shut down Yik Yak, where anonymous users had been posting offensive and occasionally threatening things about the group. President Richard Hurley responded by asserting that taking action against Yik Yak would violate students' free speech rights.

"The speculative connection FUC and the Feminist Majority Foundation claim exists between Grace Mann's death and Yik Yak commenters spreads misinformation, and worse yet, it adds undue pain for the grieving Mann family," he wrote.

FUC also accused UMW's rugby team of sexism because students—not all of them rugby players—engaged in some offensive chanting at a party. In response, administrators forced team members to attend sensitivity training and eventually disbanded the team altogether.

5. The University of Kentucky's Student Government

Quick! Choose one of the following options:

  • A single designated free speech zone in a specific location on campus
  • Multiple designated free speech zones in various locations across campus
  • No preference

The University of Kentucky's student government clearly thinks it's important to give students the illusion of choice before crushing their free speech rights. The group emailed the above survey to members of campus and offered them a chance to win $250 if they completed it. They didn't include an option for students who actually value their constitutional rights, unfortunately.

Abby Dawson

4. Abby Dawson

There are unhelpful college administrators, and then there's Abby Dawson. This Kennesaw State University advisor refused to assist a student and then accused him of harassment because he was sitting down and wouldn't leave. "Sitting here until somebody is available is harassing," she said. "Would you like for me to call campus security?"

This was not Dawson's first moment of unjustified hostility. According to The Huffington Post, she had quite a history of unhelpfulness. She evidently thought her job was not to advise students, but to crush their souls and sic the cops on them if they sat for too long.

3. Northwestern University's Title IX Bureau

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, the famous line goes, but everyone following campus news in 2015 has come to expect the Title IX Inquisition. Students and professors who make controversial statements about sex and relationships are at risk of triggering an investigation by bureaucrats dedicated to an overly broad definition of sexual harassment.

Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, learned this the hard way. After she penned an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education about how the university's oppressive Title IX bureaucracy was making life worse on campus, students who didn't like her views filed complaints against her. She was subsequently subjected to an absurd investigation that wasted both her time and the university's financial resources. And though she was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, professors who advocated on her behalf were eventually accused of violating Title IX as well.

Thought-crime investigations take a toll on the climate for academic freedom on campus. They also justify the existence of a lot of administrators, and enrich a lot of lawyers.

2. Sarah Trower

Title IX strikes again—this time at the University of Kansas, where student Navid Yeasin was expelled for calling his ex-girlfriend (also a student) a "psycho bitch" on Twitter. That wasn't very nice of him, but it certainly wasn't illegal. Nevertheless, administrators expelled Yeasin for his tweet—even though it didn't specifically mention the girlfriend, and even though she had no way of seeing it since he had already blocked her.

Yeasin sued the university and the case went to court, where a judge agreed with Yeasin that a public university could not punish him for his hostile tweet. But KU appealed the decision: lawyer Sarah Trower argued that Yeasin violated Tile IX and deprived his girlfriend of her right to a hostility-free campus environment. "You can't… [be] seeking to alienate her," said Trower at the Court of Appeals hearing.

Melissa Click
Melissa Click

1. Melissa Click

In George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984, an agent of the authoritarian state tells the soon-to-be-brainwashed protagonist, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever." Student-journalists, meet your very own boot-stamper: Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Missouri, who easily captures the #1 spot on this list.

In early November, student protesters at the University of Missouri demanded that the president resign for failing to ease racial tensions on campus. After this demand was met, the triumphant activists gathered in a public field and declared the area a "safe space" for demonstrators. Dutiful student-journalists Tim Tai and Mark Schierbecker attempted to photograph and interview some of the protesters, but other students and faculty members deliberately blocked their path in order to shield the activists from scrutiny.

None did so with more censorious zeal than Click, who repeatedly attempted to banish Shierbecker from the space. "You need to get out!" she repeated over and over again as she placed her hand over his camera lens. When he asserted that he had just as much a right to use the space as anyone else, Click tried to recruit people to forcibly remove him. "I need some muscle over here!" she shouted.

The media later learned that Click held a courtesy appointment in Mizzou's School of Journalism (she resigned after the video footage surfaced). If you want a picture of what's to come on college campuses next year, imagine the hate-filled visage of Click as she stomps on a student's camera—forever.

NEXT: America's Decaying Institutions

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did I beat Fist? Umm. Insert a witty phrase here, cause I got nothing.

    1. Since you did not comment on the article, it does not count. Point disallowed.

      1. I don’t really care about firsts, just kind shocked I’d have one.

        1. The rush. It’s better than sex. I mean, not better than sex with me of course because, pinnacle. But for you, you should have a cigarette.

          1. To each their own. I don’t really see the appeal of first posting. I mean I tried it once, but it didn’t do much for me, but if you enjoy first posting then I can’t see a good reason to object to you first posting.

            1. I don’t want to. I happen to.

          2. Fist, I thought sex with you meant never being first.

    2. OK, fine around 10 years ago I had a friend who waited tables at the local strip club. On her night off Lemmy came in and got a few lapdances. She was rather upset that her so called friends didn’t let her know that she could have partied with Lemmy,

      1. She was right to be upset and incidentally, the “loathsome” part of the title of this article is wrong. All of these people should receive an award for helping to clean up some of the foulness polluting our campuses. To his credit, the author did not mention the discreet collaborative efforts of various distinguished members of the academic community to suppress inappropriately deadpan “parodies” that stir up unwanted controversy. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

    3. Did I beat Fist? We all did. Our competitive instincts used as a cudgel of caring. Our muscle, creating a safe space for the rest of us. Did you beat Fist you ask? Aye, we all did. This one time.

      1. When you’re first on AM or PM links then you have reason to celebrate.

    4. Don’t be shocked. It’s easy to beat Fist outside of normal business hours (Eastern).

      1. In the A.M. it’s as easy as beating morning wood.

        1. So is posting here really your job, or does it just seem like it?

          1. I’m one of those guys who gets paid to go around posting pro-Putin propaganda. Anywhere – not just here – you see a comment about how great Putin is? Cha-ching.

            1. So you’re on The Donald’s payroll? How many showers do you have to take each day? Scratch that. How many showers should you be taking each day?

              1. Yeah, Putin’s pretty great.

            2. Is it true that if you post enough you get a young babushka and a datcha?

              1. And a trip to Cuba to visit our comrades in the tropics.

            3. Is it true that if you post enough you get a young babushka and a datcha?

            4. So how do the rest of us get a piece of that fat, pro-Putin , money cake?

  2. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face?forever.” Student-journalists, meet your very own boot-stamper: Melissa Click

    “Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.”

    ? John Derbyshire

    1. Any responsible face would be happy to make that trade.

  3. Am I the only one who thinks that “ROOM 101” would be a great course number for Intro to Censorship?

    1. And Broom 101 would be a great course number for Intro to Rape Culture

  4. ” The remark was cruel, but Pryor owed the campus an apology

    No it wasn’t, bad joke at worst, and no he doesn’t owe anyone anything for it.

    1. forget it. it’s Ricotown.

      1. That’s not okay.

    2. Beat me to it. Neither requirement nor need – he made a subjective comment on a neutral platform, which comment he is perfectly free to say and feel if he damned well chooses.

      1. You run in Rico’s circles and see if you’re not conditioned to qualify your support for speech.

        1. I was at Occupy. I’m not afraid of Rico!

          1. Occupy Wheel Squeak? Occupy Cheek Treat?

    1. Born to lose, live to win

      1. I’ve been debating dropping Facebook then I read this “So I have to share this story. Um, I’m bad with dates but Maddox was 2, I think. ’07? It was a Motorhead show at Stubb’s. I was there but Madd’s dad John Wilinski took him to VIP after the show and he met Lemmy. John was holding Madd, who was chomping away on a sandwich. Madd tried to feed Lemmy the rest of his sandwich and he goes (pointing to a recent boo-boo near Madds lip) “Sorry little guy, but I’ve known plenty of women with similar sores on their lip. I’ll have to pass.”. Lemmy joked about herpes with my toddler. That’s the shit right there!”

        So I like my friends.

  5. I think Eric Posner should have won, as his sheer dumbassery should push him to the top of any anti-free-speech list.

    1. Posner is a full on authoritarian of the worst stripe. It’s trite and worn out, but he would have been perfect for the Schutzstaffel.

      1. You know who else was perfect for the Schutzstaffel?

        1. Ralph Fiennes?

        2. The soldiers in Operation Anthropoid?

      2. Careful with that. Judge Richard Posner is actually pretty decent. I have no idea of relation but don’t confuse the two.

        1. Yeah, decent. The judge that believes the constitution means whatever he wants/needs it to mean at the moment, its actual words notwithstanding.

          Judge Richard is Prof Eric’s dear old dad.

          Eric used to post at Volokh quite a while ago. I wonder then why he stopped, but it has since then become clear that even the Volokh brand of libertarianism/loose classic liberalism was too much/icky for him. (By “loose”, I refer to the many co-posters, not to the Volokhs themselves.)

  6. No love for Preet Bharara? Come on, light up the woodchiper in your heart.

  7. It’s really sad to see so many people with so much cognitive dissonance. At least, I assume it’s cognitive dissonance, since that is easier to believe than it is to believe that this many people can be so mendacious. At least, I am convinced that Melissa Click is one of those true-believer userful idiots.

    1. “userful”. That was a typo, though I must admit it would have been a clever way of implying that someone is a prostitute.

      Speaking of epic typos, is John still around. I haven’t seen him in a while.

      1. Here, I’ll light the John Signal:



          1. …..ew.

          2. What a vile thing to bring up.

    2. God damnit! Everybody uses this wrong.
      Cognitive dissonance is the DISCOMFORT of holding two diametrically opposed ideas, not the ability to do so effortlessly. The ability to do it without any discomfort is a combination of stupidity and delusion.

  8. On the subject of banning things, the New York Times keeps banging the gun-control drum.

    1. From the comments: “in a real democracy they would have burned the guilty Supreme Court Justices in effigy and then rioted until Gore ascended to power. In 2006, the Dems, which were opposed to the Iraq war, won back the house, but they did not force Bush to stop the Iraq war (which they could have done but that’s another story). In 2008, we elected a man with a very progressive agenda, and he was castrated by the Republicans in Congress, a bunch of men with the heart and soul of witches.”

      1. in a real democracy

        Mob rule for the win.

        1. Yes, at least they understand that and are honest about it. Mobs rioting and burning effigies. They are fine with that…as long as the mobs are enforcing their personal preferences.

          1. The Jacobins have finally made it to America.

          1. Love that albumn. Dio rocks.

            That is all.

      2. Social Justice – the other religion of peace

      3. In 2008, we elected a man with a very progressive agenda, and he was castrated by the Republicans in Congress, a bunch of men with the heart and soul of witches.”

        I guess he is blissfully unaware that Obama was elected with Democrat supermajorities in both houses.

        1. Let’s add the fact that Gore pretty much lost the 2000 election, including his home state, because of his positions on guns. Plus what Rhywun says below. So much incorrectness packed into so few words.

      4. the Dems, which were opposed to the Iraq war


    2. That drum will continue to be banged until all guns (except those possessed by law enforcement officials) have been destroyed, which is to say “forever”.

    3. Some of their fellow drummers were banging loudly at Christmas dinner: BS about Obuma issuing an executive order on the subject.

      A sharp kick in the calf under the table from my better half caused me to have another cookie.

      1. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

  9. The media later learned that Click held a courtesy appointment in Mizzou’s School of Journalism (she resigned after the video footage surfaced).

    Resigned from the appointment but not (unless something’s changed) from the faculty. She assaulted a minority student and she’s still on staff.

    1. He was not a right-minded minority student so it didn’t count.

      1. Plus he was in knowing and willful possession of male genitalia, and she’s a STRONG WOMYN, so her victim cards trump his.


        1. Yeah, a “STRONG WOMYN” whose first reaction is to call for big burly men (“some muscle”, in her terminology) to enforce her dictates.

  10. I can remember when, if arguing with an advocate for gun control, you could shut them right-the-fuck up by suggesting we apply the standards they wanted for the 2A to the other amendments as well, particularly the 1A.

    “So, ‘the people’ as mentioned in the second amendment means ‘the states’ or some other state run collective? Not individuals? Very well, only state sponsored protests and demonstrations are allowed.”

    *gun grabber and former Vietnam war protester crosses arms and glowers in silence*

    That tactic wouldn’t work on our average modern progressive as they would enthusiastically agree. They really are the worst kinds of people.

    1. For that matter, Roe v. Wade does not give individual women the right to have an abortion, it gives Collective Women the right to abort.

      1. It gives government the power to decide who should or should not abort. We’ll need to re-brand them as “conception correction surgeries”.

      2. Can we collectively abort these morons?

      3. Now, that is something I’d like to see….a “collective abortion”.

        Sounds Russian or something.

    2. They are so bereft of personal responsibility that they clamber for any promise of security, no matter how obviously hollow it is.

      1. They’re all infants so yeah

    3. I think part of it is that the modern progressives lack the perspective of a former Vietnam war protester. In his day, the protester saw what he considered (rightly or wrongly) to be abuses perpetrated by those in control of the government, so if he’s a reasonably honest and thoughtful sort he’ll remember that RC Iron Law thingy. (I know some former Vietnam protesters who are in fact supporters of 2A rights, partly based on their hard experiences.) The average modern progressive figures that people like him will always be in the driver’s seat so the idea of government control of speech doesn’t worry him.

      Now, if Mr. Modern Progressive truly understood the nature of “people like him” he might see the danger of that thinking. But that would require more intellectual activity than following a Twitter feed so it ain’t gonna happen.

      1. i think it’s also a kind of disconnect from the harsher realities of life (im not immune to this myself). it’s kind of amazing we arent still hunting and gathering and dying at 30, as most people have done for most of human history. how can anyone argue with a straight face that we have some sort of “right” to healthcare, or food, or even water? the idea of positive rights is really twisting that word into meaninglessness, too.

    4. They feel like they’ve lost control over the media, so screw free speech.

  11. Were the Children of the Corn from Missouri?

    1. Nebraska.

  12. What’s the prize, membership in the Ministry of Truth?

  13. “””where he confessed and apologized.””

    Big mistake, this like blood in the water to Parana. They take it as a sign that you are week and an easy pray

    1. Ed gives us AM links on Christmas day. What do we get out of these lazy millennials, I ask you?

      1. Somebody needs to flog the interns harder!

        1. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

  14. Someone posted “#blackwomenmatter,” and Pryor responded, “they matter, they’re just not hot.” The remark was cruel, but Pryor owed the campus an apology, not his scalp.

    Oh, Robby. Why do you give the yokels ammo?

    He owed no one, anything. That’s how speech works.

    1. Comment of the day

  15. Abby Dawson – Would
    Melissa Click – I’d like to say “would not,” but I’ve made some bad decisions while drunk in the past…

    1. Leave Mx. Click for Crusty…

  16. Prediction: Moar Star Warz

  17. Campuses today are a theatrical mashup of 1984 and Lord of the Flies, performed by people who don’t understand these references.

    – Iowahawk

  18. That’s a whole lotta crazy.

    Posner is a piece of shit and while everyone on the list deserves a woodchipper, Abby Dawson seems especially special. Man, the urge to punch someone like that…

  19. “Someone posted ‘#blackwomenmatter,’ and Pryor responded, ‘they matter, they’re just not hot.'”

    The university owes Pryor an apology. Obviously he’s been exposed to the wrong black women. Black women are the hottest kind of women out there.

  20. I always hear a lot of folks here talking about how the left and right are equally bad. But, looking over this list, it really looks like pretty much everyone listed is on the left. Now, I’ll admit that its possible Robby is part of some vast right-wing conspiracy to gloss over the right’s censorship. But, I kind of doubt it.

    So, I have a question. Is there a comparable list of right-wing censorship in 2015? It could very well exist and I’m just missing it. I’d be delighted to see evidence of it.

    1. Well, this is a compilation of campus censors, so you’ll need to go elsewhere to compile the right-wing censorship list.

    2. I always hear a lot of folks here talking about how the left and right are equally bad.

      Its kind of a weird tic, a compulsion that works asymetrically.

      This could just be confirmation bias on my part, but the pattern seems to be:

      Criticize a right-winger, no need for a “to-be-sure” shout-out that lefties are just as bad.

      Criticize a lefty, and you’re much more likely to see that to-be-sure aimed at the right. I was bitching about this yesterday with Nick’s unnecessary and unsupported throw-away claim that punks (as a group) disappoint the left. Nikki set me straight – lefties (including most punks) are disappointing people in general, so of course they disappoint each other. Still . . . .

      I suspect its a holdover from a generation or more ago, when righties and socons actually were (more) aggressively going after free speech and the like. Although they generally had plenty of company from the left, as well (anyone remember Tipper Gore?).

      1. I suspect its a holdover from a generation or more ago, when righties and socons actually were (more) aggressively going after free speech and the like.

        True. But, should libertarians still be fighting a war that they already won when a lot of us were barely in high school (and some here weren’t even born)? It strikes me that the tic works exactly the wrong way from a perspective of getting more people to agree to libertarianism.

        When conservatives or liberals evolve to a more libertarian position, libertarians should welcome them in and try to bring them further along. When they take less libertarian positions, libertarians should criticize them. Right now, in 2015, its the right that is getting (just a little) more libertarian. The left, on the other hand, has become wildly less libertarian. Given that, you’d expect libertarians would be more forgiving to the right (still trying to push their needle further in the libertarian direction, of course). Instead, it’s the opposite. Columnists (and a few of the commenters who seem obsessed with yokels hiding under their bed to get them) never fail to give the left every benefit of the doubt, while going through every effort possible to find fault with conservatives.

        1. Being a bit older, I have the problem with believing that libertarians have truly won anything when it comes to the Right. I can recall that the Right seemed to be more libertarian during the Clinton years, but when Bush was elected they gleefully and pointedly threw it out the window with basically “we don’t need you libertarian assholes anymore” attitudes. So while I’ll certainly ally with conservatives when it makes sense, I can’t see them as anything but fair weather friends who will dump me when the siren song of Big Government Power beckons.

  21. Ms. Click was an amateur. She should have joined a muslim group.

  22. Seriuosly, the acronym of a feminist group is FUC? I feel microaggressed.

  23. re: #6
    How could one resist the urge to say something offensive about a group called “FUC”?

  24. One might expect law students to have a better grasp of First Amendment case law than the average university administrator.

    That wouldn’t have been nearly as funny if it hadn’t immediately followed your honorable mention for Posner.

  25. Melissa Click? You mean that’s not Carrot Top? What a relief. For a minute there I thought he’d gone crazy.

  26. that bitch needs to get smacked in the face with nine inches of meat

  27. Apparently Melissa Click’s email address can be found here:

  28. Twitter is banning/restricting free speech. Where is the article on that Reason?…..PR20151230

  29. 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,


  30. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.Com

  31. “…but Pryor owed the campus an apology,…”

    The fuck he did. None of their fucking business.
    This is where Robby pretty much always loses me. He’s just to Goddamn conciliatory to that pov.

    ” lawyer Sarah Trower argued that Yeasin violated Tile IX and deprived his girlfriend of her right to a hostility-free campus environment.”

    Even if he did ( and he didn’t) Title IX legislation doe not trump the first amendment. If they clash, the law created by congress loses to the constitution.


    Hopefully Melissa Click is about to be tossed out on her figurative arse. I can’t believe this hasn’t been done already! Good riddance!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.