|Does Anybody Still Care About Free Speech?
Below are four letters to the editor from today's WSJ, in response to a recent commentary by Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch about the importance of free speech on campuses. The third one, from some brainwashed moron at Duke University, defends speech restrictions because they are needed to protect the oppressed from white privilege.
Memo to Moron: Three thoughts, assuming you know what a thought is: First, it is the epitome of racial stereotyping or you to lump all whites together as coming from "privilege," whatever that is and however you define it. Second, please explain to me how--to quote the common ethnic slurs of yesteryear--my dago, wop, greaser, garlic-chewing, swarthy, papist, mobster forebears came from privilege, when my poor immigrant grandpa was a coal miner, my dad worked as a tile setter, and I used to wash and wax the big Buicks and Pontiacs of my black coworkers for extra money when I was a teen. Third, aren't you privileged to be at Duke?
Does Anybody Still Care About Free Speech?
If campuses are hateful, racist places, then the problem must be the ideology of the left.
May 18, 2016 4:42 p.m. ET
Regarding Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch's "Why Free Speech Matters on Campus" (op-ed, May 13): The existence of safe spaces and speech codes is more an indictment of the left than of general society. If university campuses are rife with racism and bigotry, the left cannot blame conservative thinkers in society. Since the left has so thoroughly dominated administration and professorship positions for decades, any problems that persist on campus must solely lie on their shoulders. There isn't a conservative around to blame, so if campuses are hateful, racist places, then the problem must be the ideology of the left. They're the ones running the academy, after all.
In 1983 then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger chose to speak at Harvard and York College of Pennsylvania, where I was president. Protests occurred at both colleges. At Harvard a group of students shouted Weinberger down, forcing him to leave the stage prematurely. At York the protesters were cordoned off and did nothing to disturb the speaker. I wrote to the president of Harvard asking him what his definition of freedom of speech was. He replied with the most inappropriate answer ever devised: "The students also have the right of free speech."
Fast forward to the Obama regime. If colleges don't make nice, they will be investigated (some 175 are already in the act of being investigated) and may lose government largess. An investigation hurts reputations regardless of the outcome, and the cost is large enough to affect active budgets. The result is that colleges everywhere don't have the stomach or stamina to resist. Freedom of speech, once championed by virtually every college professor and president, has been set aside or scared into the closet.
Robert V. Iosue, Ph.D.
Young people learn how to disagree with intelligence and grace by imitation. But neither public officials nor faculty practice the tools of persuasion. The decline hit a milestone in 1988 when one vice presidential candidate said to the other, "I served with Jack Kennedy. . . . Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," and the media and masses were thrilled, impressed by insult.
For our politicians and college faculty the rules of engagement don't permit a loyal opposition. The only rhetorical skills of merit now are in the courtroom and from the pulpit. It is time to revive rhetoric.
In reality "free speech" doesn't mean that all are free to speak and persuade. Institutional inequalities and informal barriers disable marginalized students from accessing "legitimate" or formalized means of communication, like those campus speakers have. This feeling of oppression is something the authors will never understand, and it is why we protest the speakers and require campus policies to protect minority students.
When Messrs. Bloomberg and Koch disparage safe spaces and speech codes to salvage "robust dialogue," I hear, "Get over it, toughen up."
Unfortunately for the good ol' boys, universities aren't just for rich, straight, white people anymore. That's who they were built for, yes, but now marginalized students are tailoring universities to fit our needs. So I refute the view that the future of our increasingly diverse new generation "depends on the preservation of that great legacy." Our well-being depends not on continuing to privilege the voices of the already privileged, but on our universities' ability to strengthen the hearts and minds of the marginalized.
How far have we sunk that such an opinion piece need be written?