This is the 25th year of the Jefferson Muzzle Awards, which is presented annually to institutions deemed most guilty of violating free speech rights.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression (TJC) announced the “winners” of their annual awards this week. In a statement released by the committee, they claimed that 2016 was the worst year for speech restrictions in the 25 years of the Jefferson Muzzle Awards.
“Never in our 25 years of awarding the Jefferson Muzzles have we observed such an alarming concentration of anti-speech activity as we saw last year on college campuses across the country,” the committee claimed when they announced the winners.
This year, they divided the awards into several categories, including “censorship of students” and “censorship by students.” In a statement, the TJC declared that free speech rights have taken a backseat to an excessive consideration for feelings: “First Amendment principles have given way to identity politics, trigger warnings, and so called ‘safe spaces,’ and the Free Speech Movement has, at many colleges, become the Anti-Speech movement.”
Yale University won the award for most severe “censorship by students” because of an incident that involved students publicly condemning a professor who suggested that it was permissible for students to wear culturally-offensive costumes on Halloween.
Faculty member Nicholas Christakis took to an academic quad in response to student anger about an email sent by his wife, who is also an instructor at the university, that defended student’s freedoms to wear potentially offensive costumes.
The award in the new category of “Efforts to Limit Press Access on Campus” went to former University of Missouri professor Melissa Click for her infamous incident with a student journalist. During the protests at the University of Missouri, she attempted to physically remove a student journalist who was documenting the event with his camera.
The awards also recognized numerous other schools who had clearly demonstrated their commitment to student comfort over the preservation of free expression. According to the TJC, universities no longer promote the open exchange of ideas. They claim that the progressives who used to “protest to have their voices heard” are now using their newfound standings in American academia to “silence those those they disagree with or find threatening.”