The past week was a rough one for free speech in America.
Two students at the University of Oklahoma have been expelled by the university’s president for their role in producing a video that contained “racist chants.” They were immediately expelled –no investigation, no hearing, and no defense allowed. Presumably, the “university community” could not tolerate any delay in ending and condemning the contamination of its heretofore pristine political culture.
If you think that even students’ offensive speech should be protected under the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, you would be wrong according to university President David Boren, who quite fittingly is a former Democratic U.S. senator and governor. According to him, the students’ antics supposedly contribute to a “hostile educational climate” on campus, and is thus not protected as free speech. That statement could have come from Eric Holder’s Department of Justice. (Who knows? Maybe it did.)
However offensive and reprehensible, the student behavior was a chant, not a Molotov Cocktail, a rock through a window or red paint thrown on a speaker.
The lack of protected free speech on college campuses is not a new problem, though it seldom makes the headlines. Nonetheless, it is a serious problem, which I have experienced first-hand, as have legions of conservative speakers on hundreds of college campuses.
When I was asked to speak not long ago on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I expected the usual hostile reception by campus radicals: I would be met by a bunch of screaming skulls full of mush carrying slanderous signs calling me a Nazi, hate-mongering racist. Those clowns were indeed there in front of the building where I was to speak. Security people took me in through the back of the building and we made our way into a room packed with more students AND “professors,” all screaming vile slogans and epithets. Every time I started to speak, the screaming began. Finally from outside, a brick was thrown through the window. Panic ensued, and that pretty much ended the event, as the protestors planned.
Of course, this was not the first time attempts to stop me from speaking went beyond peaceful protest. You will appreciate the irony of this next one, which happened at the University of Michigan LAW School. There the protesters kept pulling the fire alarms so that the building had to be emptied each time I was introduced. The First Amendment is obviously not a prominent part of the Constitutional Law curriculum at the law school.
Those are just two examples of the kind of reception I have seen over and over again on college campuses. Now, here is the point in context of the Oklahoma expulsion: Not one of these many incidents of violent disruption of a lawful public event caused the expulsion or even suspension of any of the student or faculty fascists who participated in the disruption. Not one.
My experiences are typical of the disruption allowed – and never punished – when conservatives try to conduct a public event on a college campus. This has become the norm, not the exception on hundreds of campuses.
Conservative speakers on campuses have been hit with pies, had red paint tossed on them and have been shouted down time and time again. No one gets suspended; no one gets disciplined; and no one gets expelled. But if you chant what could be the lyrics to a popular rap song, not only do you get expelled, but your fraternity gets shut down and all the members get tossed out of their house – all without a hearing.
Greek fraternities are a new target of the college “Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee” codes. Fraternities and sororities have joined Young Republicans and conservative groups as guilty until proven innocent before the leftist administrators and tribunals governing our modern “institutions of higher learning.” They are, after all, the citadels of “white privilege,” and thus guilty of innumerable crimes against social justice.
I am not defending what may in fact be a racist chant. Such behavior is juvenile, offensive and shameful. I am only pointing out the hypocrisy in the double standard applied to such cases.
Indeed, calling this behavior “hypocrisy” is too polite a term because today, the campus leftist disruptors are not troubled or shamed by the charge of hypocrisy. This tells us the problem goes far deeper. The progressive left running most of our institutions no longer even pretends to believe in free speech in the traditional sense, so they are self-immunized against charges of hypocrisy.
Today’s campus progressives are simply enforcing the universal leftist code of political correctness, a code followed by Marxists and leftists everywhere they come to power. A double standard is inherent in this leftist code. What is surprising is that anyone is surprised. The real problem is not the everyday violation of free speech on American college campuses, it is the growing acquiescence to this onerous political correctness by the university’s governing authorities.
College trustees and regents are indeed guilty of hypocrisy, but the protesters themselves know exactly what they are doing and are not ashamed. This travesty will continue until trustees are held accountable for their malfeasance.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC. He represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security, and he can be heard every Monday on Grassroots Radio Colorado with Kris Cook (KLZ 560 AM).