Our colleges are now freedom-free zones

The 1970’s Black Liberation Army engaged in bombings, murders and prison breaks to further its purpose of “taking up arms for the liberation … of black people in the United States.” 

Today, its little publicized, but very effective progeny, relabeled Black Liberation Collective (BLC), has chapters in almost 100 college campuses “dedicated to transforming institutions of higher education through … direct action and political education,” including, one chapter proclaims, “collective resistance”  by “Black students from across the country.”

BLC’s objective is to end academic freedom. One chapter expressly attacks “first amendment enthusiasts” as “either unaware or unconcerned with the persistent racial inequality that prevents students of color from even accessing this right.”  BLC rejects free speech as protecting “an imagined denial of rights to the dominant group [whites], instead of the … persistent denial of rights to the oppressed [Blacks].”  Translated: the majority must surrender their Constitutional rights or Blacks will never have theirs.  Further, they demand that colleges prosecute anyone who expresses a contrary view: “prosecute criminally … defamatory speech in the college community.”  Duke’s chapter paraphrases it to prohibit any speech on campus “that offends [or] “insults groups.”

These BLC demands violate the Supreme Court ruling that “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right of freedom of expression.”  Most colleges’ written guidelines guaranty academic freedom. 

Typical is Brown University’s mandating it “must be a place where ideas are exchanged freely.  By asserting their right to protest, individuals cannot decide for the entire community which ideas will or will not receive free expression.”

The reality is, however, that most colleges today ignore these principles to appease BLC mobs.  Last year, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, was forced from the podium and prevented from speaking at Brown. 

In January, Natan Sharansky (jailed in Russia for championing free speech) and actor Michael Douglas, invited to Brown to discuss Jewish identity, were both prevented from being heard by raucous demonstrators. 

Forewarned by publicized calls for disruption, a dean and campus police were on site, but did nothing to halt the disruption. Incredibly, instead, that Dean offered to immunize demonstrating students who had thereby missed classes. 

Other examples of thwarted invited speakers: Rutgers (Condaleeza Rice); U. of Texas (Henry Kissinger); UCLA (Laura Bush); U. of Arizona (George W. Bush); and Johns Hopkins (Ben Carson).

Interference with academic freedom has extended to targeting professors and students.  A few examples: Two well-respected Yale Professors, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, felt forced to quit because, as she said, “the current climate at Yale is not … conducive to civil dialogue and open inquiry.”  It started with her expressing the American axiom that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society,” when commenting on students’ Halloween costume decisions.  Students then surrounded Mr. Christakis, screechingly demanding an apology for his wife’s statement as violating students’ “safe place” and “place of comfort,” followed by the “f” word and “you are disgusting.”  Yale’s response was to applaud the demonstrators for their “cries of help” caused by discrimination against them – attributing fault to free speech and our free society.

At University of Missouri, an unconfirmed assertion of the “N” word yelled at Black students sparked an organized blocking of the Homecoming Parade, students’ hunger strike, 30 football players refusing to play or practice, and many faculty refusing to teach – all demanding the President and Chancellor acknowledge their “white privilege” and the University’s systemic racism, and then their resignations, which were given. 

At Dartmouth, 150 Black students ran into the library, cursing and threatening white students studying there, chanting “f**k you, you filthy white “f**ks,” and similar words.”  Facebook reflected the assailants’ boast of having “raised hell, we caused discomfort.”  Dartmouth apologized to the assailants, while complaining victims were told that “the protest was a wonderful, beautiful thing,” and that complaining whites were merely living in “a whole conservative world out there that was not very nice.”

Many other colleges have experienced similar violations, with very few standing up for academic freedom.  One exception was Ohio State, which quickly ended a sit-in by student protestors to support demands for “justice, transparency and democratic process,” by informing them that if they don’t “clear the room, … our police officers will physically pick you up and take you to a paddy wagon … to be arrested.”

In the absence of strong administration, the well-organized destroyers of academic freedom will continue to win. 

It is now time for alumni, parents, and right-thinking academics to organize to defeat this growing cancer.

Gerald Walpin, author of “The Supreme Court vs The Constitution” (Significance Press 2013), was successful counsel in obtaining court protection of academic freedom of a high school student in New Jersey, and recently was the target of an attempt at Yale University to prevent him from speaking on the Birthright Provision of the 14th Amendment. He is also a Director of Center For Individual Rights, a pro bono legal entity which often sues to protect academic freedom.

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