Why should we care about speech restrictions at private universities?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Back in January, appellate lawyer Howard Bashman of the How Appealing blog came to Emory, and we had a nice discussion about free speech on university campuses. C-SPAN was filming, and I only just found out that the piece aired at some point—here's the link to C-SPAN.

As part of my comments on Howard's talk, I discussed Emory's Committee for Open Expression, which I'm a member of—you may have seen blog posts about the two opinions we issued, one about the vandalism of a display put up by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine, and another about the Trump chalkings.

I also described—and endorsed—the position on free speech at private universities taken by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Some people have criticized FIRE's approach, which singles out "normal" universities that restrict speech while giving a free pass to, say, some religious universities that are far more restrictive. More generally, some libertarians have wondered why we should ever care about what policies private universities adopt. My position, which is broadly consistent with FIRE's, is that speech restrictions at private universities are problematic to the extent that the universities have publicly committed themselves to the paramountcy of free speech or open expression values. Emory, for instance, is such a university (see its Respect for Open Expression Policy), while BYU has publicly stated that certain other values take precedence.

Anyway, FIRE has just written a blog post and linked the particular two-minute clip where I discuss this, so I'll just send you to that post.