Campus Free Speech

If You Think Campus Free Speech Is No Big Deal, Watch This Shocking Vice News Report From Evergreen State College

Michael Moynihan finds students scared to express "nuanced" ideas, a progressive professor demonized as a racist, protesters mocking "free speech," and a college president who cannot rule out that he might be a white supremacist.


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Are you one of those people who suspects that all the brouhaha over campus free speech outrages, no matter how individually insane the stories, might be exaggerated in the aggregate when it comes to prevalence and effect? It's OK—I am one of those people, despite writing about the subject on occasion and reading all the fine work done at Reason by Robby Soave and other colleagues.

Or I should say, I was one of those people, before watching Thursday's Vice News segment from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where (as Ben Haller has written here previously) things have gone pear-shaped ever since a lone white professor refused to stay home during an activist "Day of Absence" for those with pallid skin pigment. Vice News correspondent (and former Reasoner/current Fifth Columnist) Michael Moynihan visited the embattled campus to query the antagonists in the controversy, and the results are stunning, infuriating, bananas. I have often wondered what it would be like to capture people in the midst of an ideological re-education exercise; now I wonder no more:

As timing would have it, this piece came out concurrently with a big Commentary symposium (to which I contributed) on whether free speech is under threat in the United States. My bottom line: "But in this very strength [of recent Supreme Court protections] lies what might be the First Amendment's most worrying vulnerability. Barry Friedman, in his 2009 book The Will of the People, made the persuasive argument that the Supreme Court typically ratifies, post facto, where public opinion has already shifted. Today's culture of free speech could be tomorrow's legal framework. If so, we're in trouble."

And just yesterday, Nick Gillespie pushed back on "5 Clichés Used to Attack Free Speech":