Campus Free Speech

Notre Dame Students Who Protested Mike Pence Did Not Violate His Free Speech Rights

Walking out of a commencement address isn't censorship.

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PenceND
Cheriss May/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Notre Dame University on Sunday, and about 100 students walked out of the stadium as soon as he started talking.

These individuals had every right to protest Pence. They did not violate his free speech rights, or anyone else's. They did not prove that they are delicate snowflakes who refuse to listen to other people's ideas.

Students who left told The New York Times that they were expressing opposition to the Trump administration's policies and also registering their disagreement with Pence's stances toward gay people and Syrian refugees. (As governor of Indiana, Pence said he would not let Syrian refugees enter the state and was one of the most anti-LGBT Republican leaders.) It's hard to fault them for wanting to make a statement against Pence. The policies they cited are in fact bad. The students, to their credit, didn't heckle the vice president or prevent him from speaking. They simply declined to play the part of a captive audience.

Pence used the opportunity to decry the fact that some campuses are besieged by the forces of "safe zones, tone policing, and administration-sanctioned political correctness," which chill free expression. And he's right: Student-inspired censorship has become a big problem lately. But the Notre Dame graduates' small act of polite defiance isn't an example of this. Protest doesn't become censorship unless the protesters prevent their target from speaking.

NEXT: Jeffrey Rosen on "federalism for the left and the right"

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  1. OK, I’m lost here.

    Did anybody claim they violated his rights? I’ve not seen that anywhere.

    Are you actually arguing against something nobody is saying?

    1. “”””Are you actually arguing against something nobody is saying?”””

      Its the easiest way to win an argument, just have nobody arguing against you.

      1. Click the links.

        1. I read the first (townhall) link.. Nobody claimed Pence’s free speech rights were denied. Do I need to click all the links?

          1. Same. That article labeled the students as snowflakes. That may or may not be accurate, but other than saying “no, they aren’t snowflakes,” Robby’s response is one large straw man.

            1. One Large Straw Man was my nickname in college.

              1. Sounds very itchy.

                1. That’s what your mom said.

              2. One Large-Straw Man or One Large Straw-Man?

        2. I’m still not seeing it.

          1. And I am not seeing Robby accuse anyone of claiming free speech violations.

            1. What is the point of asserting that something is not censorship or a free-speech violation when no one is making that argument. It’s a fallacy that’s a step beyond a strawman.

              1. “One Step Beyond”

                /Madness

              2. It’s certainly a very good thing they didn’t heckle the distinguished Vice President or, worse, subject him to unwanted electronic “satire” via twitter or any other means, because then they would have been violating his rights on many different levels. Surely no one here would dare to defend the “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case? See the documentation at:

                https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      2. Its the easiest way to win an argument, just have nobody arguing against you.

        That was Hillary’s plan in the election. Look how that turned out.

    2. Soave has an amazing record of victories fighting strawmen.

      1. Click the links.

        1. I think Sparky is broken.

          1. Like everyone else, I’m just making sure Robby gets plenty of clicks.

      2. “There are some people who would say that those students VIOLATED the free speech rights of the Vice President. I am not one of those people.”

        Robby Soave, greatest American hero.

        1. He is an inspiration in courage.

          Robby Soave: “Some people think Hitler was a humanitarian hero. I am not one of those people”

          1. lol.

    3. Vox probably said that some people were complaining and Robbie thinks they are a totes neutral source of ‘news’

      1. Click the links.

    4. Yes, he is.

      And I followed the link that explains why Pence is so anti-LGBT and got standard-issue conservative talking points and circa-2005 legislative policy. I hope I can make it to my fainting couch.

      1. Ah, but you see, Pence is effective in his anti-LGBT efforts, or so I’ve heard.
        He’s so effective, LGBT Hoosiers have stronger legal protections than they did before he took office. I certainly won’t contend that that was his intent, but it is a fact. First, the Indiana legislature passed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” which was basically meaningless, then Pence signed it into law. Then the professionally offended cried their butthurt from the mountaintops, and Pence (and the legislature) ignominiously retreated, actually ending up strengthening legal protections for queer Hoosiers.
        So, obviously, the Trump/Pence administration will be rounding up queers and sending us off to the camps any day now.

    5. He forgot to preface his remarks with “there are those who would say….” It is the perfect immunization from criticism and the ideal introduction to your straw man.

      It was the state of the art favored by articulate and clean people before Trump came along. Under his tutelage we have learned to ignore the straw man and the argument and go straight to argument by random assertion. It is actually a much more difficult tactic to defend against, because it eschews any sort of narrative or logical construct, leaving the proponent free to argue in any direction.

    6. You guys ought to try clicking the embedded links. Maybe even the very first one.

      1. The writer of this post ought to try explaining why you have to click his links and read external posts in order to make any goddamn sense out of what he’s saying.

        1. I’ll not disagree that Robby should have put some content from the first link into this article.

      2. The first link “delicate snowflakes” never claims Pence’s free speech rights were violated nor does it claim that he was censored.

        So, please stop saying “click the links”.

        1. Yeah, I’m not getting Robbie’s point either. But, I am understanding why a lot of people have stopped reading this site.

          1. No me, the entertainment is priceless.

      3. You guys ought to try clicking the embedded links. Maybe even the very first one.

        ok

        As promised, students walked out of their own commencement because Mr. Pence is a bad, bad man?or something. In truth, they’re opposed to the Trump administration policies. That’s fine.

        Clearly these students need defending from these spurious accusations?

        There’s still no one anywhere claiming that Pence’s rights were being violated.

    7. OK, he seems to be arguing against the townhall link that comes only in the 2nd paragraph. I guess. It’s a curious way to frame an argument but I’m no writer so WTF do I know.

      1. “I’m no writer so WTF do I know.”

        I come here to read you comments more than I come here to read Robby.

        1. I’m feeling a little bitchier than usual this morning. Must be the dreary weather.

        2. No kidding.
          Rhywun is a consistent voice of Reason.
          Robby is just a sloppy thinker and shitty writer.

    8. “Did anybody claim they violated his rights? I’ve not seen that anywhere.”

      Exactly!

      The important thing is that Robby noticed . . . something or other.

    9. Did Robby actually say anyone was claiming violation of free speech rights?

      Are you actually arguing against something nobody is saying?

      1. Seems implied since it is featured in the headline.

        If he had written:
        “The students walking out did not steal his car or rape his wife”, one might wonder if there are allegations of same, otherwise, why bring it up?

        1. I heard they did, but I assumed it was fake news.

    10. Maybe the headline should have been, “Notre Dame Students Who Protested Mike Pence Did Not Pee on His Shoes”.

  2. Walking out of a speech where they lose nothing but gain first in line at the graduation beer bust.

    1. gain first in line at the graduation beer bust

      Not to mention gushing write-ups in the MSM.

      1. Yeah why show up at all unless you’re looking for attention? No one made them go in the first place.

  3. I don’t understand why those students that walked out are attending a Catholic university when there biggest qualms with Pence had to do with his beliefs that align perfectly with Catholic teaching.

    1. An excellent point.

      1. Oh, and lest I be unclear, I think they handled their protest appropriately – even if it is more than a little inconsistent to be OK with obtaining a degree from a Catholic university while simultaneously protesting the Trump administration’s fairly liberal policies in the area of LGBT issues. Even on immigration, the administration can largely be summed up as long on rhetoric while their actions merely consist of enforcing existing laws less incompetently than their predecessors have for the last 25 years.

        1. Oh, and lest I be unclear, I think they handled their protest appropriately

          Only if they rented or borrowed caps and gowns, IMO. Paying for all the ceremonials in order to walk out of the ceremony would be pretty dumb.

          1. Economically dumb. But if their point was to make their protest visible and known while simultaneously respecting the rights of others, then it was a job well done.

            I’ll simultaneously reserve judgement on what appeared to be various departmental drapes that some of the students were wearing.

    2. I don’t understand why those students that walked out are attending a Catholic university are attending a Catholic university in Indiana!.

      I mean, they’re probably only a short 20 min. drive from Memories Pizza and probably a dozen other pizzerias who would refuse to cater their weddings.

    3. I don’t understand why those students that walked out are attending a Catholic university when there biggest qualms with Pence had to do with his beliefs that align perfectly with Catholic teaching.

      Well, now that Pope Hippie is in charge, they can say that Pence is a heretic.

  4. So, are laws creating protected classes bad, or is being against creating protected classes bad? If you think the latter is bad, then by implication you think the former is good.

    1. Depends on who is the protected class. It switches every day with Reason. Protected class status is bad when used for police (agree). Protected class status is good when unilaterally expanded by Judge Posner to include gays (makes no sense).

      It’s like federalism. Federalism is good when used by local sanctuary cities (ok). Federalism is bad when used by North Carolina to overturn a Charlotte law mandating private business bathroom policy (makes absolutely no sense).

      Reason: we’re about as libertarian as Chuck Schumer.

      1. Whoa, maybe you should stop reading this site, then.

        1. Is this an unfair summary?

          1. Yes. I probably should have said you ought to start reading the site.

            I’m sorry that Scott said there existed arguments for a libertarian to defend the 7th Circuit’s ruling. He should have come out all fire-and-brimstone against it so that his super perceptive and exacting readers were not confused.

            1. Right, so supporting the creation of a protected class, while opposing the creation of a protected class (with regards to police) is……inconsistent logic? What are you not getting here?

      2. Who here is arguing against NC’s HB2 on *federalism* grounds? There’s nothing inconsistent about supporting federalism while not supporting every single act that a state may do.

        1. I don’t know about the NC “bathroom bill” but they don’t like federalism when it comes to professional licensing boards. Several writers cheered at the fed for coming down on states doing that. Not supporting licensing boards is a different thing from cheering the fed for busting them.

          It’s the right call for the wrong reason kind of thing.

        2. Shackenstein generally falls back on federalism arguments, calling for local control over state control, leading to his uneasiness with the NC bathroom bill.

          Other writers do not find federalism arguments very convincing, and cheer when a higher level of government stops a lower level from restricting liberties.

          The height of hypocrisy, that is.

  5. My commencement speaker was Howard Zinn. It was ghastly. Just ghastly. Dozens of students did not walk out on him, instead dozens of PARENTS walked during his speech. It went on for over an hour. This was during the Reagan years, and his thesis was that the graduating class would all die because of Reagan. We would die of AIDS, or war, of poverty, of concentration camps, of whatever he could possibly accuse Reagan of. There was no way around it because America was a failed culture.

    It went on for over an hour.

    I do not like Pence, but I would have traded Zinn for Pence any day of the week.

    1. The commencement speaker at my graduation was the president of the university. Thanks, state flagship university, for going out of your way.

      1. I didn’t attend any graduation ceremony, so no idea who spoke at mine. I treated college as a place I went to be taught stuff, not as some “experience”.

    2. Oh, and the Zinn story is great. That’s a swell way for a university to essentially rub the parents’ noses in fresh crap and announce “See, we ripped you rubes off big-time!”

    3. I’m actually impressed that you even remembered who your commencement speaker was. I can’t recall mine without looking at a program from the event.

      Those things are a total waste of time, regardless of who’s giving them. Everyone knows the students are just hoping to get the thing over with so they can go out right away and get blind-drunk. Say “Congratulations, good luck, and be safe tonight” and call it a day.

    4. “”It went on for over an hour.””

      That’s alone is a good enough reason to walk out.

  6. These individuals had every right to protest Pence. They did not violate his free speech rights, or anyone else’s.

    Ok, with you so far…

    They did not prove that they are delicate snowflakes who refuse to listen to other people’s ideas.

    Two out of three ain’t bad, eh Robby?

    When one walks out to avoid listening to a speaker, they are indeed refusing to listen to other people’s ideas. Sure, that’s their prerogative, but let’s not pretend that they’re anything but SJW snowflakes.

    -jcr

    1. When one walks out to avoid listening to a speaker, they are indeed refusing to listen to other people’s ideas. Sure, that’s their prerogative, but let’s not pretend that they’re anything but SJW snowflakes.

      Especially in a ceremonial regard. I didn’t and won’t read the speech, but I’m seriously dubious that it was some borderline anti-gay or anti-refugee screed or that the students got so far into it as to be offended first and then leave.

      Can you imagine the news stories if a group of predominantly-white, religious students from Indiana had got up and walked out of a Biden speech because of The President above him? Acting like it wasn’t political is dumb.

    2. Click the links.

      Read the next sentence.

      1. Read the next sentence.

        Read? Pffft, please nobody reads the articles, especially ones by Suave. No, you just skim them looking for easy quotes you can use to show how Robbie’s just a lousy SJW cuck pretending to be a libertarian for a paycheck. That’s how the game is played.

      2. Students who left told The New York Times that they were expressing opposition to the Trump administration’s policies and also registering their disagreement with Pence’s stances toward gay people and Syrian refugees.

        did pence talk about this at the speech? it seems like they saw who was going to speak and decided to make it a thing.

      3. Read the next sentence.

        Are you seriously acting like they left because what they heard was inappropriate or offended them? I don’t know anybody who’s played on any athletic team who hasn’t sat through at least one tirade explicitly directed at them. For all they know, he laid out *the* plan to get into the White House and enact any/all social agendas.

        How about you continue to pretend this wasn’t a (protected) political stunt and I’ll continue to pretend that these kids wouldn’t have trouble getting through a T-ball game without bursting into tears.

        1. So you didn’t read the next sentence?

          DOOMco reproduced it in italics just above this.

          1. It doesn’t change Mad’s argument.

            1. I don’t know what he’s arguing. Unless he had several typos, he seems to agree with me. I’m saying the reason they left was not that what they heard offended them, and that it was a political stunt to protest the VP.

              Neither of which “prove that they are delicate snowflakes who refuse to listen to other people’s ideas.”

  7. I did not attend my graduation because the ceremony served me no useful purpose. If ever asked to speak at a graduation I will instruct the graduates on utilitarianism and to place better value on their time.

    1. Everyone knows it’s for the parents more than the kids. In which case, from a utilitarian pov, is 4-5 years financial assistance worth wasting half a day? Probably.

    2. And who was the speaker at the University of Philadephia that year?

      1. Al Bundy. NOT Ed O’Neill – Al Bundy.

  8. They did not prove that they are delicate snowflakes who refuse to listen to other people’s idead (sic).

    They literally walked out and did not listen to other peoples ideas. Is this a typo? (trying to give the benefit of the doubt)

    1. They did not prove that they are delicate snowflakes who refuse to listen to other people’s ideas.

      They may have acted in a way consistent with that of delicate snowflakes, but that is not proof that they are delicate snowflakes.

      1. Go with that. It’s a winner in spite of empirical evidence otherwise.

        1. The empirical evidence here is that they walked out, claiming it as political protest. Not to cover their ears and save themselves from ‘violent speech.’

  9. Is anybody saying this, though? I believe all people are doing is rightfully calling out these kids as self-righteous close-minded idiots, and rightfully pointing out that conservatives and libertarians sit through being lectured on politics they disagree with all the time without throwing a hissy fit.

    1. And on the “wow, things have changed” front, I went to see one of Louis Farrakahn’s top lieutenants speak in college. Not because I agreed with him – quite the contrary. I wanted to see what it was all about and learn more about where they were coming from. (answer – naked racism. In fact, they told all us white folk we had to leave, because this was a talk “just for us”. So I kinda got reverse protested. )

      1. I saw Professor Griff (the Nation of Islam guy from Public Enemy) give a talk while I was in college. He spoke about “big brown ball” sports (football, basketball, etc.) and “little white ball” sports (golf, billiards). He was very earnest. It was the comedy event of the season.

        1. That’s pretty funny. What about hockey pucks, though? They don’t really fit the trend, although I guess the the fact that they play on a white rink more than makes for it.

          1. The white netting of the hockey goal represents the white woman’s vagina accepting the blackness of the puck. At least that’s how he explained basketball to us. Let’s just say his ideas weren’t quite fully formed.

            1. I am now terrified of bowling.

        2. So he ripped off Chris Rock’s “The Dark Side with Nat X” skit?

      2. ‘because this was a talk “just for us”.’

        Did you tell him you would leave out of respect for “you people”?

        1. “I’m trans-racial, you dick!”

  10. You will always have the UVA scoop to your credit, Robby. Do you ever worry that you’ve done your greatest work at age 28 and it’s all going downhill from there?

    1. I don’t understand why he didn’t go with the racism angle!

      Getting up and leaving while Pence is speaking is not necessarily racism or homphobia, for that matter.

      . . . not that anyone said it was, but if we’re gonna throw that obstacle out the window, why not go for broke?

      Getting up and leaving while Pence is speaking is not necessarily violating Pence’s free speech rights nor is it support for female genital mutilation.

      1. To clear up my confusion, I hope he provides an update that lists all the things that it is not.

    2. Actually wapo got the scoop…

    3. Do you ever worry that you’ve done your greatest work at age 28 and it’s all going downhill from there?

      Some people peak in High School, some peak in college, others in their late 20’s. But the one thing everyone has in common is that it’s all downhill after 30.

      1. So wrong. You must be in your 20’s.

  11. did they hum the national anthem on the way out?

    1. “I put it to you Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want with us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! Gentlemen!”

      1. I thought you were pre-med.

        1. What’s the difference?

  12. Well, I agree they didn’t violate Pence’s free speech rights, nor the right of others to hear his speech, and that they had every right to seat themselves and than walk out peaceably in protest.

    But – well, they did kind of refuse to hear his ideas, didn’t they?

  13. RE: Notre Dame Students Who Protested Mike Pence Did Not Violate His Free Speech Rights

    That is true.
    Fortunately, all the little snowflakes left in time not to hear the VP’s speech.
    Otherwise they would have to be rushed to a “safe zone” for some puppy therapy.
    A disaster averted!

  14. Meanwhile they had no problem lecturing Pence at a Hamilton performance.

  15. Nope, not gonna be outraged by this. They aren’t members of the snowflakes that we’ve all come to despise. Walking out on Pence was a SYMBOLIC refusal to hear his opinions – they know his point of view on any number of subjects, he’s a long-time public figure after all, and so walking out was a way of indicating disagreement with him. In this way they actually did engage to protest ideas.

    You people are way too literal. Sheesh. Though I will agree, Soave is the most courageous killer of the straw man…

    1. I don’t think there is any reason to be outraged by this. And frankly, I don’t think even the conservatives at Town Hall (which is linked) are outraged. They are merely pointing out an event that they feel reinforces their opinion of some college students.
      It seems quite fair to put it this way:

      Pence was invited to speak.
      A few students left to protest Pence.
      Their protest was perfectly legitimate since Pence got to speak.
      They also came off a little snowflaky since they didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

  16. Nope, not gonna be outraged by this. They aren’t members of the snowflakes that we’ve all come to despise. Walking out on Pence was a SYMBOLIC refusal to hear his opinions – they know his point of view on any number of subjects, he’s a long-time public figure after all, and so walking out was a way of indicating disagreement with him. In this way they actually did engage to protest ideas.

    You people are way too literal. Sheesh. Though I will agree, Soave is the most courageous killer of the straw man…

  17. “The policies they cited are *in fact* bad.”

    I’m as gung-ho about my ideology and the principles behind them as you’ll find, but even I don’t have the conviction to call them “facts”. Got my click though Robbs, so bully to you sir.

    1. Yep, came here to say basically the same thing. Whether anything is “good” or “bad” is a value judgement. All value is subjective, so there is no objectively correct answer to how good or bad anything is.

      Normative Statements don’t have a factual value.

  18. No one should be forced to attend a graduation speech by anyone.

    But I’m pretty sure the protestors did in fact reveal themselves to be delicate snowflakes if they can’t sit for a half hour to respectfully listen to the Vice President of the United States, even if they disagree with him politically.

  19. IMHO: A ‘snowflake’ isn’t someone who just rejects or avoids something because he/she/whatever opposes it or fears it. A ‘snowflake’ is the one who, usually without viewing or hearing something, screams that it should be forcibly prevented from happening, and/or that they must be protected from it at all costs because it is dangerous and evil.
    These students walked out to express the message that they chose not to hear it because it is both wrong and reprehensible, not that it should be forcibly silenced.
    I would praise their action whether or not I agree with their opinion.

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