Documentary Exposes Brown University’s Censorship Culture

AP Photo/Amy Anthony
AP Photo/Amy Anthony

A new documentary that debuts this week aims to pull back the curtain on the toxic censorship culture at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

The documentary, which focuses on Brown University, suggests that the Ivy League university is plagued by a culture of speech codes, censorship, and political correctness. Each of these factors plays an important role in cultivating an educational environment that is hostile to the academy’s basic and essential function of intellectual inquiry. Conversations that become uncomfortable are suspended, violent rhetoric (as long as it comes from the left) is protected, and classic texts that fray from academia’s progressive orthodoxy are siphoned from the curriculum.

To combat this insurgency, filmmaker and Brown graduate Rob Montz is looking to bring more attention to this toxic culture that has taken hold of one of America’s top universities. In a film that debuts this week, Montz examines the evolution of censorship culture at Brown since he graduated from the university in early 2000s.

In 2014, the Brown campus community descended into chaos after a controversial speaker was invited to campus to speak. The speaker was Wendy McElroy, a research fellow at The Independent Institute and a victim of sexual violence, who has questioned the accuracy of commonly accepted sexual assault statistics. In response to criticisms and uproar from the community, Brown University President Christina Paxson took a firm stance against conclusions drawn by McElroy on sexual assault.

Some people–including writer Wendy McElroy, who will speak with Jessica Valenti at a Janus Forum event next week–have argued that sexual assault is the work of small numbers of predatory individuals whose behaviors are impervious to the culture and values of their communities. I disagree. Although evidence suggests that a relatively small number of individuals perpetrate sexual assault, extensive research shows that culture and values do matter. Societies that have strong norms against sexual assault have fewer assaults. Furthermore, people are more likely to come forward to report assaults in communities that understand the seriousness of assault and support survivors.

In another instance, Brown Professor Tricia Rose delivered a convocation speech in which she asked students to pledge loyalty to her perspective on racial politics. Despite the controversial nature of the subject matter, few members of the Brown community questioned unusual Rose’s solicitation for an affirmation of her worldview, which some would consider inappropriate in the context of a convocation speech.

Montz’s documentary that explores this instances and many more premieres this week on, an online comedy channel that frequently discusses issues of personal freedom and political correctness.

Tom Ciccotta is a classical liberal who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or on Facebook. You can email him at


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