Hit the sponsors with a hefty lastminute fee to cover heavy security.For a group of institutions that supposedly encourage expression and the exchange of ideas, far too many campuses don't.
Charging students for an uproar that their detractors might produce is a version of the heckler’s veto. In February, an Objectivist group at UCLA scheduled a debate between a Minuteman official and an open-immigration advocate. But the campus left rarely tolerates open debate. After threats of disruption, campus administrators ruled that the sponsors would have to pay $12,000 to $15,000 for additional security. The Objectivists said they couldn’t afford the fee and canceled the event. But free speech triumphed. Informed that the Supreme Court had ruled on this, UCLA waived most of the security fee — “Speech cannot be financially burdened … simply because it might offend a hostile mob,” Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, 1992.
Crack down on satire. More than a dozen campuses have canceled mock bake sales intended as jabs at affirmative action policies. In these sales, whites and men pay more for cookies or other pastries than non-Asian minorities or women. Humorless administrators point out that the sales run afoul of antidiscrimination policies by charging different rates based on race and gender — the whole point of the parody. The campus censors have been losing heart, though, partly because students know that similar sales run by feminists, to satirize unequal pay, never run into trouble. Last week, yet another campus lost a satirical battle. During “Conservative Coming Out Week” last fall, college Republicans at the University of Rhode Island advertised a fictitious $100 scholarship for white, heterosexual males. The student government voted to derecognize the Republicans for a year over the joke, but FIRE hounded URI president, Robert Carothers, who helped pressure the grim censors to back off. At Tufts University, editors of an independent student paper may be charged with harassment and creating a hostile environment for publishing two satires, one a Christmas carol poking fun at racial preferences, the other a “terrorismawareness” article satirizing Islamic awareness week.
Applaud the censors. Administrators at Washington State University hailed the disruption and subsequent cancellation of a student play that featured a zombie Jesus and a racist Pontius Pilate. Later it turned out that the administration had subsidized the disrupters, paying for their tickets. In a commencement talk, a former president of Cornell praised students who seized and burned hundreds of copies of a conservative campus paper that had irritated blacks with a parody of Ebonics. The president thought censorship was a legitimate act of free speech. It isn’t, of course, but campuses tend to attract officials who think so.
Friday, May 18, 2007
John Leo takes a look at the tactics of College Censorhip: