FIRE’S Top Ten “Winners” in the War Against Free Speech

          Here in America, the danger to free expression is beginning to be greatest where it should be most defended, that is to say, within the walls of the academy.

~Salman Rushdie, 2015

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) just issued its 4th Annual Top 10 List for “threats to free speech on campus.”

As Kirsten Powers said of the list, “Read it and weep.”  I read it, and not only because my college made the list for a case I’m all too familiar with, but because my own experience introduced me to FIRE’s work supporting free speech across the nation.

Sadly, there is enough free-expression suppression going on in our institutions of higher learning to keep FIRE busy for decades – far too many administrators, faculty & students treat the U.S. Constitution as if it was something they dimly remember from a boring high school fiction class.  Taken as whole, this year’s Top Ten list makes an excellent case for regarding higher education as a very expensive absurdist play.  As for weeping, peruse the list for yourself and see if Powers isn’t onto something.

The utter stupidity of the knee-jerk “I’m offended” reactions is stunning.  An artist at the University of Iowa set up a temporary art installation – a statue of a robed KKK wizard made out of a collage of newspaper articles covering racial violence from 1908-2010 – and students instantly assumed his “statement art” was making a statement celebrating racism rather than decrying it. This is rather like seeing a cross from the highway and assuming whoever put it there is a fan of crucifixion.

Instead of being embarrassed by their faux pas, the intolerant students demanded that the statue be whisked away out of sight, and so it was.  The administration soothed them predictably, assuring offended students that their campus had “no room for divisive, insensitive, and intolerant displays.” Further, UI President Sally Mason made a public apology to students who felt “terrorized” by the artwork and for U.I.’s failure to provide a “respectful, all-inclusive, educational environment.”  U.I. even allowed “victimized” students to put off exams and other work.

And pretty much anything terrorizes college students these days.  Ever gone to a birthday party at Chevy’s and taken home a sombrero?  You might want to bury it quietly in the backyard on a moonless night.  If caught, don’t be surprised if you, like the ADPi sorority at Cal-State Fullerton, find yourself coordinating a mandatory training session covering “cultural competencies and diversity.”  Members of the sorority were so sentenced after committing the grievous sin of serving tacos at their “Taco Tuesday” recruiting event, while wearing “sombreros and other Mexican garb.”

What’s next?  Will just liking tacos make us guilty of dietary aggression?  Could I utter the words “Spaghetti Western” without being hauled off to get my cultural competencies rearranged — or will I get a pass because I’m half Italian?  Perhaps only my Irish half will require “re-education.”  So . . . is it offensive if I set out a baked potato buffet on top of my Irish linen tablecloth, or should I switch it out for a more neutral tablecloth first?

And could someone please explain to me how it is “sensitive” to FORCE rogue students or faculty to take sensitivity training whose sole purpose is to make their opinions conform to campus-sanctified PC opinion?   “All-inclusive” is clearly short for “all-who-believe-exactly-what-we-believe-inclusive.”  Those of you who don’t toe the line need to be excluded and punished, even for the way you dress off campus:  Such demands should be recognized for what they are:  sanctioned bullying.

As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff argues, colleges “not only fall short on promises of free expression and academic freedom but openly suppress constitutionally protected speech on campus by using tools such as speech codes to shut down forms of expression that might be uncomfortable, disagreeable or even offensive to some members of the campus community.”

I remember sitting, decades ago, in a college philosophy class and hearing “I think; therefore I am.”  But “thinking” is just so . . .  passé.  Too many seem to have embraced a new version asserting their own existence: “I am; therefore I’m offended.  Placate me.”  Academia talks the talk of “diversity,” and while it works hard to bring in employees and students who LOOK different on the outside, it seems dedicated to producing Stepford students and faculty who think exactly alike on all the de rigueur PC isms of the moment.

And my college?  Modesto Junior College stopped student Robert Van Tuinen from passing out free copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.  Months later, after paying a $50,000 settlement to Van Tuinen, the unrepentant Chancellor wrote an op-ed in the local paper asserting that he wasn’t prevented from handing out the Constitutions after all – i.e., don’t believe your lyin’ eyes.  You can watch the video here – but if it brings back horrible memories of the awful absurdist play your high school teacher made you sit through, don’t complain.  This is your official Trigger Warning.

Yay — Another Diss to the Tyranny of Grad DISinvitations

Dean Ryan’s letter contains precisely the advocacy for robust debate that FIRE hopes to see from college and university administrators.

~Susan Kruth, FIRE

If only Dean Ryan were the rule, rather than the exception . . .

Read the article here.

FIRE’s Latest on the ‘Disinvitation Season’

How about we have no graduation speakers at all, no graduation ceremony, and just mail you your diploma? That way you’ll be freed from the horror of hearing anything from anyone who might have done anything at any time in their past which you might disapprove of and/or who might have the temerity to say something you disagree with. And if your diploma arrives in any way folded, spindled, or mutilated, consider it an apt metaphor for your university-educated brain.

Read the article here.


Just saw a post on Facebook from “Being Liberal” which thanks “Americans Against the Republican Party” for a photo of a woman looking deeply distressed and forlorn as she stares at her computer screen, with this caption:


That moment when you connect with an old friend from high school.  And you discover that she’s a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Fox News.

It’s got over 43,000 “likes” and is pushing 9600 “shares,” and it’s coming from the very crowd that had a national hissy fit when Limbaugh said he hoped Barack Obama would “fail,” even though he’d made it clear he thought the president’s policies would hurt the country if they succeeded.

Now we’re in the midst of that hurt, with too many part-time jobs and too few full-time careers; huge national debt; record numbers of people on unemployment and/or some form of welfare assistance;  a surfeit of scandals including Fast & Furious,  Benghazi, and an IRS which targeted political opponents; a Justice Dept. which taps journalists; foreign adversaries who respect us less, allies who are angry over NSA surveillance; and a signature piece of legislation that’s proven wildly successful at getting people dumped off the health insurance plans they were assured they “can keep,” but  features a three-and-a-half year in-the making website that is about as effective as an Etch-A-Sketch at enrolling them in new health care plans.

A quick sampling of the comments following the post:

Heck, I’ve unfriended family members because I couldn’t take what they were sharing!!!

Oy! So true… AND, Glenn Beck. The worst!

I have family that are die hard Republicans. They swear by Fox News and all of the right-wing pundits. Thank God I only have to be around them once a year at Thanksgiving.

Ugh….pretty much my entire “HS” list on fb. Most of which are “do not show in newsfeed” or blocked.

I have quite a few liberal friends and relatives on Facebook, and for the record, I’ve never blocked anyone because I didn’t agree with their posts, much less “unfriended” someone because they loved MSNBC or Bill Maher or even posted photos from “Americans Against the Republican Party”  featuring condescending captions.

And yet, Being Liberal thinks my political views are unbelievably embarrassing?

What’s embarrassing is that the same people who are always lecturing the rest of us about “inclusion” and  “tolerance” and  “diversity”  seem blissfully unaware of their own tendency to be  non-inclusive, non-tolerant and non-diverse, ideologically speaking.

More importantly,  I believe they’re mistaken about human nature and thus miscalculate the likely effects of various policies or initiatives.  We subscribe to very different worldviews and place our faith in very different objects or institutions.  But there seems to be less and less mutual respect these days between people who differ philosophically, and Being Liberal’s post serves as a  snapshot in social-networking time, illustrating one of the main reasons:  the Left thinks the Right is too stupid to be worth listening to.

We’ve been “deleted” from the conversation about what ails our country and what might help it, because we listen to and admire the wrong people, and this, you see, cannot be tolerated.

And that’s not awkward; it’s sad.

Students With WAY Too Much Free Time

From the 2012 Ohio University Campaign


From the 2011 “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign

Thanks to Chicks on the Right for cluing us in to Ohio University’s “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign, which illustrates what happens when the humor-impaired and liberal academia meet on a holiday.  Universities used to have noble intellectual aims — now they function more as overpriced group facilitators, helping students get in touch with their Inner Victims:

The purpose of STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) is to educate and facilitate discussion about all isms (racism, sexism, classism, etc.),  raise awareness about social justice, and promote racial harmony. Our job is to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.

Really?  You want me to feel comfortable expressing my feelings?  Ok.  I feel  that you need to get over it, and spend your time at school preparing for a real job– being a professional victim is not a job — even if Jesse Jackson et al. make a fortune at it.  I further feel that you should cut the condescending campaigns which don’t promote anything but your own sense of superiority.

Do you really believe that people are so stupid that they think their cheesy Halloween costumes say anything accurate or meaningful about anybody’s culture?   In case you hadn’t noticed, Halloween is a national progressive dessert party that ends in a sugar-induced diabetic coma — it’s not a museum tour with docents, and nobody’s singing “It’s a Small World, After All,” either — well, not if they want any treats.  So please, trade in that diversity training that you’re so eager to offer to others, and learn how to laugh again, including at yourselves — it’s not as lucrative as a lifetime of earnest hypersensitivity to all the “isms” that were and are to come, but it’s a lot healthier — for everyone.