“Fear of Violent Protests Raises Cost of Free Speech on Campus”

That’s the title of Douglas Belkin’s piece in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal.  However, it’s inaccurate.  What is feared by college/university management is the thugs who protest free speech with violence and others who protest free speech with noise and interruptions and venue entrance blockings that prevent the speaker from speaking.

Schools have struggled to come up with a consistent answer to requests to speak, pitting their free-speech ideals against security concerns.

Schools are being disingenuous when they pretend to these concerns, and the WSJ is misunderstanding the problem when it characterizes the schools as having free-speech ideals. The existence of the schools’ trading off security for free-speech demonstrates the lack of ideals regarding free-speech.

Were the schools’ managers truly concerned, they would understand the greatest violence is done to liberty when they cravenly trade free-speech for security, when they cravenly force disfavored speech into school-mandated “free speech” zones, when they cravenly allow “protestors” to prevent disfavored speakers from speaking, when they cravenly, despicably, allow “protestors” to dictate to others what speech those others will be allowed to hear.

“We have a non-negotiable commitment to provide safety and security for our guests and the public at large and we have an equally unwavering commitment to free speech,” said Mr [UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor, Dan] Mogulof. “That puts us between a rock and a hard place; we can’t step back from either one.”

Mogulof is being disingenuous. There’s no need to step back from either—allow the one, and provide the other. Worried about cost? Get serious about dealing with thugs who masquerade as protestors blocking speech of which the thugs disapprove. Get serious about snowflakes who pretend to being “triggered” when they hear speech they claim frightens them.

What’s plainly of distant secondary importance to these managers is actual free speech.  With their timidity, these managers fail to seriously defend the free speech rights of the speaker and, worse, fail to defend the free speech rights of others to make their own choice of what speech they will hear.

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