Five Ways Universities Quash Free Speech

Five Ways Universities Quash Free Speech

On Monday, the Alliance Defending Freedom sued the University of Georgia for placing limits on free speech by restricting demonstrations and speeches to designated “Free Expression Areas” between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. All gatherings must be previously approved by the administration of the school. Just weeks ago, UGA told Young Americans for Liberty that they could not put up the debt clock for the country outside the Free Expression Areas.

Welcome to America’s universities, the bastions of diversity of thought.

America’s liberal arts universities have long been safe zones for leftist thinking, protected ivory towers for the pseudo-elite who earn their livings writing papers nobody reads about gender roles in the poetry of Maya Angelou. Those who aren’t studying the hard sciences – north campus majors, as we used to call them at UCLA – are, in many cases, being propagandized in the classroom and getting negligible job skills back in return.

But, we are told, universities are places to learn about different perspectives, hear different viewpoints, and shape our own sensitivities and worldviews.

Here are five ways universities prevent just that:

Free Speech Zones. Free speech zones have repeatedly been struck down at the public university level. Nonetheless, the Foundation for Individual Rights states that approximately sixty percent of colleges across the country have restrictions on speech on campus, and one in six have “free speech zones.”


Speech Codes. Most campuses have policies about the kinds of speech they prefer on campus. Over time, prohibitions have moved away from basic sexual harassment and bullying and toward any language that might make people on campus feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.  Such restrictions would be struck down in the public sphere under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, they’re extremely common across the country, and serve to intimidate students who wish to express unpopular viewpoints – which used to be the supposed purpose of all that “diversity” campaigning. As the ACLU states: “Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not.”


Commencement Censorship. In the last few weeks, Rutgers University faculty and students forced the withdrawal of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking at commencement. The basis for their complaint: Condoleezza Rice served in the Bush Administration and was therefore responsible for war crimes. The week before, Brandeis University uninvited human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali thanks to her gall in suggesting that Islam is not a religion of peace – that suggestion coming on the heels of her genital mutilation and forced child marriage at the hands of Muslims. Even International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde is too right-wing for this crowd – Smith College students and faculty forced her withdrawal thanks to her association with the IMF, which they said contributed to violence against women and based on race.


The PhD System. There is no greater way to ensure that universities remain a hotbed of leftist thought than to guarantee that professors knight their own successors. But that’s basically how the Ph.D. system works, with sitting professors approving the work of would-be professors. With studies showing that virtually all Ivy League professors swing left, that’s a great way to keep the professoriate biased against conservatism.

Tenure. By giving professors jobs for life, universities create a feeling of unanswerable power among too many. Tenured professors who are uninterested in serving the student body are less likely to respond favorably to criticism, and are more likely to feel the freedom to intimidate or harass those with opposing viewpoints. Historically, professors have defended tenure as a way to protect their individualistic thought. But tenure can also be used as a club to wield against the powerless.


America’s universities have become increasingly shuttered in their worldviews. The impact of political correctness grows each and every day thanks to entrenched interests seeking to further entrench their views of politics and values.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.