Big Brother’s Lawyers

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5 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    “First, college administrators must understand that exercising First Amendment rights in a peaceful and civil manner can further the mission of liberal education.”

    Perhaps the problem is that one in five college administrators disagree about what the mission of liberal education is? Perhaps they think that mission is indoctrination in a predetermined set of beliefs, “liberalism”, and any speech which might interfere with that mission must be suppressed.

    I think that is what is really going on here. Some people running colleges just think of them as indoctrination centers.

  2. I don’t see the problem. Students are learning a valuable lesson, if you want free speech, you must learn to tie it to the power of money. With the corporatization of higher education (which is distinct from that other disturbing trend: the privatization of education and the growth of for-profit higher education institutions),* one consequence of the triumph of Neoliberalism, what better age-appropriate institution to drive home that lesson? This corporatization of the university complements and reinforces (if it is not directly related to) an ideological transformation that began several decades ago, as recently noted by J.M. Coetzee:

    “This assault commenced in the 1980s as a reaction to what universities were doing in the 1960s and 1970s, namely, encouraging masses of young people in the view that there was something badly wrong with the way the world was being run and supplying them with the intellectual fodder for a critique of Western civilisation as a whole.

    The campaign to rid the academy of what was variously diagnosed as a leftist or anarchist or anti-rational or anti-civilisational malaise has continued without let-up for decades, and has succeeded to such an extent that to conceive of universities any more as seedbeds of agitation and dissent would be laughable.

    The response of the political class to the university’s claim to a special status in relation to the polity has been crude but effectual…. [….] The fact is that the record of universities, over the past 30 years, in defending themselves against pressure from the state has not been a proud one. Resistance was weak and ill organised; routed, the professors beat a retreat to their dugouts, from where they have done little besides launching the intermittent satirical barb against the managerial newspeak they are perforce having to acquire.”

    As Coetzee further points out (and he’s not the first to do this),

    “A certain phase in the history of the university, a phase taking its inspiration from the German Romantic revival of humanism, is now, I believe, pretty much at its end. It has come to an end not just because the neoliberal enemies of the university have succeeded in their aims, but because there are too few people left who really believe in the humanities and in the university built on humanistic grounds, with philosophical, historical and philological studies as its pillars.”

    In short, an abiding and honest concern with constitutionally protected free speech ill-fits with the university’s mission as merely a training ground for future employment in the new economy.

    * Please see the reading list here: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2013/05/the-corporatization-of-higher-education-a-basic-reading-list.html

  3. AYY says:

    I’m not so sure Coetzee is right, except in the most basic sense. Seems to me that universities get regulated by just about every administrative agency at every level there is, and their trustees are independent of the legislature, so what they can do is limited more by the agencies and the trustees than by the politicians. And then the foundations offer grants, but their money has strings attached, so the foundations probably have some say in how things eventually work out.

    As for the humanities,things went downhill fast once the postmodernists got a foothold. Now it’s hard to find a place where the tenured radicals aren’t in charge. The recent incident at Brown is but one illustration of how they aren’t exactly supportive of free speech when the speech is something they don’t like.

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    There’s an old saying, I don’t recall the exact wording or the author, but the gist of it is this: “When you’re in power, you let me advocate my position, because that’s what you believe in. But if I gain power, I won’t let you advocate your position, because that’s what *I* believe in.”

    I’ve mangled it horribly, of course. But the essence of it is that a large part of the left only valued freedom of speech and conscience because they weren’t in power, and see no value in it if they’re the ones issuing the rules.

  5. Jorge Saul Garcia says:

    @1, @4: Brett, nowhere in the article does it say that the colleges apply their free-speech-zone policies based on the content of the speech. But you have—twice now—implied that these policies are just a “tool of the left” to shut down conservative viewpoints. You must be reading a different article than the rest of us.

    You may be having a knee-jerk reaction to the word “liberal” in the phrase “liberal education.” I suggest you consult a doctor, and then a dictionary, to get that cleared up.