Are US colleges and universities becoming free-speech-free?

Harvard Widener Library - Image by chensiyuan for Wikipedia

Harvard Widener Library - Image by chensiyuan for Wikipedia

 By Richard Cameron, Communities Digital News

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2014 – Earlier this month, a Harvard senior named Sandra Y.L. Corn wrote an opinion piece in the university’s student publication, Crimson, arguing that academic freedom be tossed overboard in favor of an arbitrary standard of ‘academic justice’. 

The idea was that because Harvard still permits Professors to even discuss ideas, concepts and theories which the majority (or perhaps – bellicose minority) of the student body considers politically incorrect, a narrow, sanitized curriculum should be adopted, which entirely excludes opposing propositions.

A tsunami of intolerance among progressives is leaving academic blight in it’s wake on college and university campuses across America. Campuses are so tightly in the grip of ideologues and faint hearted administrators that leftists are establishing de facto speech free zones for anyone with a divergent worldview.

Robert Van Tuinen, a student at Modesto Junior College thought it would be apt and proper to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution – not the battleship, but the actual document that is the basis of the law of our land on Constitution Day, 226 years old, but on life support. He was not aware that campus officials had arbitrarily set aside a small footprint of college property that free speech was limited to and that free expression was prohibited anywhere else.

As he was engaged in handing out the pocket Constitutions to patriotically challenged, low information students – a low information arm of the controversy phobic school administration approached him and notified Mr. Van Tuinen that he was in violation of campus codes.

He was told that he would have to apply for permission at the student office.

“There are rules,” the officer says in the video that Van Tuinen captured of the event. “But do you know what this is?” Van Tuinen replies. “What are the rules? Why are the rules tied to my free speech?” He complied with the directive and upon hearing what he was doing, the individual in charge of apportioning speech disclosed the precise area set aside for the purpose, but informed him that the area was already in use that day.

Van Tuinen’s experience was picked up by local media and then nationally in the alternative media where it came to the attention of an organization called the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Washington D.C. Civil liberties legal defense group. The law firm assigned to assist Van Tuinen, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, filed an initial complaint against Modesto Jr. College and the school realized quite early on in the proceedings that they were on the short end of the legal stick, agreeing to a $50,000 settlement and additionally pledging to change the “free speech zone” policy.

“FIRE is very pleased that Robert Van Tuinen and Modesto Junior College have reached this settlement-and that Modesto Junior College students will now be able to exercise their First Amendment rights across campus,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said in a press release.

“But because 59% of colleges nationwide maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict student speech, there’s much more work to be done.”

Part of the settlement includes the provision that MJC may not in the future cancel the agreed changes recognizing the rights of students to free expression.

But last Tuesday, March 4, an activist among a group representing “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” a campus pro-life advocacy organization, was assaulted by an enraged professor, Mireille Miller-Young, at the University of California Santa Barbara.

The group of students, a number of which were visiting from Thomas Aquinas College in nearby Santa Paula, were peacefully and in an orderly manner engaging in discussion with interested students when a militant, pro-abortion professor accosted one of the members.

She reportedly ripped the informational sign out of the hands of one of the campus visitors after instigating an aggressive verbal confrontation. She later became physical with 16 year old Thrin Short, when Short attempted to determine the professor’s whereabouts for campus security who were responding to investigate the incident.

Details are still coming to light, but Ms. Kristina Garza,  Director of Campus outreach with Survivors, says that her understanding is that Ms. Mireille Miller-Young shoved Ms. Short forcefully three times in an apparent attempt to push Ms. Short off a campus elevator as Ms. Short was holding a camera in one hand and seeking to hold the elevator door open to gain access with the other.

SDSU Campus Police are compiling a report and have taken Ms. Short’s video into custody and the destroyed pro-life sign as possible evidence and have gathered witness statements about the altercation.

The faculty member whom SDSU University Police are assembling evidence regarding to determine possible charges, is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies.

In her profile on the University’s Academia site, Ms. Miller-Young is described as engaged in research exploring “race, gender and sexuality in visual culture and sex industries in the United States. Her manuscript, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women, Sex Work and Pornography (forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2014) examines African American women’s representation and labor in pornographic media.”

Other areas of specialization include “Gender and Sexuality”, “Queer Studies” and “African Diaspora Studies”. It is noted also that Ms. Miller-Young has contributed articles to such publications as ‘Feminist Theory’ and ‘$‘ – a magazine promoting the ‘sex-worker’s rights movement’.

Of interest is the indication that in today’s higher education environment, students and faculty involved in “Gender / Sexuality / LGBT studies” are viewed by many as the most militant among the various elements of the Left on college campuses across the country. As was profiled in the Sandra Y.L. Korn article, there is a strong impulse among the sociology segment to advocate censorship of views and research that doesn’t conform to the politically correct orthodoxy of radical feminism – plus a distinct atmosphere and tone of misandry. Unassailable dogma replaces dialectic.

Differing opinions are ’hateful’ and facts that contradict radical feminism, for instance, are ‘slanderous’ or ’demeaning’.

One of the trends identified is the campaign to expel fraternities and men’s organizations from campuses, based on the idea that their existence fosters sexism and is an obstacle to feminist goals including equality. Cases of actual rather than merely implied violence directed towards males at colleges and religious facilities are being more frequently reported, not just here but internationally, most notably, Latin America.

As to the upshot of the visit to UCSB, by members of Survivors Of The Abortion Holocaust, Joan – Thrin Short’s sister, reports:

“Yesterday we had a good day.  We passed out all of the literature we had, and had lots of conversations. We know babies are dying every day so we will continue to peacefully and nonviolently speak the truth about abortion.  We know we will suffer insult and even violence as we did today but we will not waver from our nonviolent speech on behalf of the babies.”