Protect free speech on campus

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

There has been a virulent strain of anti-free speech fascism developing on our college campuses, and on too many campuses, this fascism has been nurtured and encouraged by the very faculty and staff that are charged with expanding minds.

The most recent high-profile example of this trend happened at the University of California, Berkley, over the past few weeks. A group of fascists rioted in order to prevent conservative firebrand Ann Coulter from giving a speech on campus. Under the threat of violence and Berkley officials’ unwillingness to control the rioters, Coulter cancelled her speech.

This has been happening to invited speakers who do not espouse leftist political beliefs at campuses all over the nation. In March, students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murry, pulled the fire alarm, banged on the walls, and assaulted a female professor. Berkley was the scene of more riots back in February when pro-free speech (not conservative) provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. The fascists set fire to trees, attacked bystanders, and forced the speech to be cancelled.

Lest you think that such behavior is confined to the coasts, Madison and Milwaukee was the scene of similar actions when conservative public speaker Ben Shapiro came to Wisconsin last year. When Shapiro spoke at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, students organized to shout Shapiro down and prevent him from speaking. Over at Marquette University earlier this year, Marquette’s faculty was caught trying to sabotage the event by reserving seats for the speech as fake students in order to prevent actual students from attending. Such lying is apparently condoned by Marquette’s staff.

Protests on college campuses are nothing new. In the classical liberal tradition, college is a place for students to have their minds stretched, their beliefs questioned, and their prejudices challenged. Protesting for and against various causes and pushing against authority is part of the American college tradition. But what is going on now on college campuses is something different and vile.

Instead of merely protesting or offering a different viewpoint, liberal fascists on campus are acting -often

violently – to repress the speech of people with whom they disagree. That is not expression. That is oppression.

In years past, college administrators and faculty were often the most ardent defenders of free speech and would take necessary actions to defend and protect others’ right to free expression. Unfortunately, for too many colleges, those days have ended. Too often, we see college administrators and faculty either refusing to defend anyone except fellow leftists and, as in the case at Marquette, actively work to suppress anyone who would challenge leftist orthodoxy.

State Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) has introduced a bill titled the “Campus Free Speech Act” to attempt to force public college administrators to do what they should have been doing all along – defend free speech on their campuses. The bill would require the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to develop and implement a system wide policy to defend the free expression of ideas. The policy must continue to allow protests, but would punish students who repeatedly attempt to quash the free speech of others.

In a perfect world, the legislature would not need to step in and require the Board of Regents to take action to defend free speech. In a perfect world, UW officials at all levels would so honor and cherish the right to free speech that they would marshal every weapon at their disposal to protect and defend people who are speaking their minds – however contrary to their own beliefs. But as we all know, the world is not perfect, and we must continue to push back the forces of oppression and fascism. Kremer’s bill is a necessary step to protect free speech for everyone precisely in the place where diverse viewpoints should be celebrated.