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To ‘The Atlantic’: Actually, there IS a free speech problem on campus

Contrary to what Columbia University President Lee Bollinger posited in The Atlantic on June 12, there is indeed a problem with free speech on contemporary American campuses.

So says Spencer Brown in the Washington Examiner.

Brown details his time with the Young America’s Foundation, traveling to colleges across the country where “subjective viewpoint discrimination, disparate treatment, and all-out censorship” are legitimate problems. Worse still are administrators like Bollinger who make excuses for student activists when “offensive” speech becomes “intolerable.”

“When they wield unbridled discretion in determining when this line into ‘intolerable’ speech is crossed,” Brown says, “free speech is inevitably imperiled.”

From the article:

All too often, what administrators say and what they do are two very different things. This is true from smaller, private institutions like Grand Canyon University to public behemoths like Berkeley. In my dealings with university leadership, they almost always claim to protect free expression — but their shameful willingness to ban speakers and penalize students suggests otherwise.

First Amendment jurisprudence, contrary to Bollinger’s attempted muddying of the waters, has already drawn a very clear line on what speech is “acceptable” and what isn’t. The courts, not university administrators, are responsible for interpreting it.

The First Amendment should not be interpreted to “evolve,” as Bollinger suggests. It doesn’t change to protect fragile campus populations from being made to feel uncomfortable, nor does it only safeguard popular speech. It is in cases where speech is not considered “acceptable” where the First Amendment’s protection of expression is most vital.

Read the full piece.

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