I’m still reading Greg Lukianoff’s book “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” . Truly hair-raising. (Lukianoff isan attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, aka FIRE.)
I’ve just finished the section called “Student Government Gone Wild”, about the shocking – but not surprising – tyrannical nature of many student governments at colleges across the USA. I say that it’s not surprising because, after having read the previous 10 chapters of this book, I can’t imagine that a significant portion of the student body would not have learned how to be tyrants against non-PC points of view.
Here are a couple of excerpts from this chapter:
EXCERPT: “Something that should probably keep you up at night is the fact that student governments, which are often seen as training grounds for future politicians and lawmakers, harbor attitudes towards basic free speech and due process rights that are more akin to petty dictatorships than to the American Founding Fathers…”
EXCERPT: “At the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, students organized to get rid of copies of a conservative newspaper that mocked student government officials. A UMass police officer stood by as angry students tore copies of the newspaper out of the hands of another student. Rather than distance itself from this effort at censorship, the student government later passed a resolution in support of shutting down the newspaper if it did not apologize for mocking them. The university eventually rejected the resolution to punish the paper, but only after FIRE stepped in.”
COMMENT: Since student government and student journalism are both rehearsals for real-world government and real-world journalism, the student government should be held to the strictest standards of respect for freedom of speech and press.
We do not and should not legally punish regular newspapers for editorials mocking government officials. University administrations should have the sense not to allow student governments to infringe on the right of the student press to mock the student government *or* to mock the university administration, for that matter.
That it took an organization like FIRE to get the university to do the right thing should be troubling to everyone who understands the importance of freedom of the press. This is not an isolated incident – the book is rich with examples of tyrannical breaches of freedom of speech and failures to uphold the individual rights of students in other areas as well. FIRE is overwhelmed with cases that need defending.
I believe that college campuses are among the most important – if not the most important – places to take a stand for individual rights. This is where young people should be learning about the principles and procedures that keep corruption and dictatorship at bay. That’s why I’m bugging people to read Lukianoff’s book and – if they agree that it’s an important book – to blog it and Facebook it and tell their face-to-face friends about it.
I’ve been talking to people about the topic of the book, and it looks to me that a lot of people have no idea what’s been going on at colleges in regard to this most important aspect of our liberty.