Robert Barchi, President of Rutgers University, has issued a statement defending free speech and the right of student societies to invite controversial speakers to campus following the tumultuous visit of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
In his statement, which can be read in full here, the President was unequivocal in his defence of free speech on campus:
While I will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, or of speakers who we invite to our campus, I will defend their right to speak freely. That freedom is fundamental to our University, our society, and our nation.
The President’s statement defended “controversial ideas” as fundamental to the intellectual life of a university.
academic freedom—the right of our faculty in the discharge of their duties to express their ideas and to challenge the ideas of others without fear of retribution—is a cornerstone of American higher education. Our University is a community of diverse ideas; we value academic freedom’s protections that enable our faculty to state their views and engage in lively discourse. At Rutgers we encourage our faculty to explore new and sometimes controversial ideas and to subject assumptions to scrutiny, all within the boundaries of civil and respectful discourse, which academic freedom requires.
Although the statement doesn’t mention him directly, it was made shortly after the widely-covered visit of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos to Rutgers. The event faced disruption from the regressive left on campus, who interrupted Yiannopoulos’ speech by smearing red paint on their faces (as well as the floor, the walls, and other attendees) and chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
The President’s statement is another sign that relations between the academic establishment and left-wing radicals on campus are beginning to cool. Marvin Krislov, President of Oberlin College, normally seen as a bastion of the regressive left, recently rejected a list of demands from student activists, calling the list “deeply troubling” and promising to address problems by ensuring that “dissenting voices” continue to be heard.
Elsewhere, Melissa Click, the left-wing assistant professor who called for “some muscle” to physically intimidate a student reporter during protests at the University of Missouri last year, was recently fired by the college, for “interfering with the rights of others” during the demonstration.
For the regressive left on campus, wilderness beckons.