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The problem with campus mob rule

Angry students shouldn’t get to dictate university policy

In a fit of cowardice this week, Hampshire College, a small private liberal arts college in New England, cancelled a Second Amendment activist’s speech on its campus mere hours before it was to begin. The decision was made all the more bizarre by the fact that the school had approved of the speaker just a few days prior. According to campus officials, the event was “very controversial” and thus required “extra considerations and precautions.” Hence, the cancellation.

Leave aside for a moment the utter ineptitude of a college’s approving an event and then hastily cancelling it 48 hours later. Consider instead the absurdity of the reason for that cancellation: that the speaker is “controversial” and so constitutes some kind of logistical headache, possibly a dangerous one.

What Hampshire Colleges seems to be conceding is that campus officials have, in a very important sense, lost control of their campus. An individual coming to a college in order to speak about a constitutional right should not, in the strictly practical sense of the word, be “controversial,” inasmuch as the discussion of a constitutional right should not constitute a controversy. That it does—and to the extent that the college feels it necessary to cancel the speech due to a sense of “precaution”—says something bad about Hampshire College, both the people who run it and the individuals on the campus who apparently can’t be trusted to behave civilly in the event of a speech with which they disagree.

One gathers that Hampshire was concerned that angry students, furious over the thought of a gun activist appearing on campus, may have posed a danger to the speaker and the people who came to hear her speak. But how did we get to this point—how did it come to pass that student mobs feel confident in dictating the speaker policies of their college? We are here because more and more institutions of higher learning have started ceding that question to the students themselves. Rather than say, “If you pose a threat to anyone on campus, you face suspension and expulsion,” schools have instead bent over backwards to accommodate the mobs, instituting “considerations and precautions” to fend off the potential violence. It’s a band-aid over a bullet wound: campuses should reflexively be places of peace and order, not potential war zones where everyone has to worry about violence.

All of which is to say, if schools want to regain control of their campuses, they need to be prepared to take zero-tolerance approaches to violent and intimidating behavior from students. This is not hard. The alternative, in any event, is much worse: allow your campus policies to be dictated by fear, trepidation and potential mayhem. Maybe colleges and universities are okay with that. Then again, there is also the distinct possibility that the folks over at Hampshire College simply do not like Second Amendment activists. Either one seems likely in this case.

MORE: Yale disgraces itself by honoring participants in student mob

MORE: Angry mob shuts down Blue Lives Matter speech at Claremont McKenna College

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  • Rowenna

    There needs to be more attention given to the behaviour of the university staff – administrators, faculty, professors, grad students who teach classes etc.

    It is clear by the requirement on some campuses and option on others that leftist ideology is being pushed – classes on ‘diversity’ and ‘white priviledge’ etc are teaching a leftist ideology that runs directly contrary to the constitution.

    When the people in positions of authority at the campus are engaging themselves in political activism and encouraging and supporting their students to do the same then there is bound to be trouble. Speakers who are conservative (or just not sufficiently lefist) are being prevented from speaking because those who run the university are encouraging mob rule – they want students to give them a reason to cancel such events.

    Congress needs to pass legislation (unless another option or existing law can be enforced) to withdraw all government / taxpayer funding to any teaching institution (private or public) that;

    – allows those in positions of authority to be politically activists. Their role is to teach not indoctrinate and when sharing / demonstratin gtheir political viewpoints in the classroom they are abusing their position of authority. Good teachers can play devil’s advocate to encourage their students to engage in critical thinking and develop their debating skills – it is a sign of a good teacher when students reach the end of their course and still can’t figure out the teacher’s politics.

    – engages in viewpoint discrimination. All teaching institutions should strive to ensure that speakers represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints and politics (if they receive taxpayer money). Likewise their curricular should also reflect intellectual diversity.

    – encourage students to engage in harrassment or intimidation. If a university has reason to be concerned that students would be in ‘danger’ from a speaking event due to ‘controversy’ then there is a major problem at the university that needs to be addressed. No one should be at university if they do not have self-control and respect for the constitution and rule of law.

  • creativeusernamehere

    Just because you’re offended, that doesn’t mean you’re right.

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  • Those “students” do realize college life doesn’t last more then 3 to 4 years right? I always wonder how they’re going to be able to survive in the real world when things offend them easily and what their reaction to job application rejection. The world is a cruel cruel place unlike the shelter of school, it will chew them up, and spit them out real good.