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UMich student leaders reject free speech measure, say it puts ‘people at risk’

A resolution that called for a robust defense of free speech at the University of Michigan has been voted down by its student government.

Some students who voted against the measure cited concerns that, if approved, it’s essentially “legitimizing certain hate speech,” “delegitimizing minorities on campus” and “putting people at risk,” according to the minutes of the March 28 Central Student Government meeting.

The resolution was brought forth by student Deion Kathawa, the Michigan Review editor-in-chief and a College Fix contributor, who said he was motivated to lobby for his “Resolution That Commits Robustly Both This Body and the University as a Whole to Free Speech, or, the ‘Dangerous School’ Resolution” to bolster an institutional commitment to free speech.

It called on the student government to release a statement reaffirming its commitment to the First Amendment, to make it clear to the campus community that protests are allowed as long as they don’t deprive other students of their free speech rights, endorse the Chicago Principles of Free Expression, and support viewpoint diversity — particularly political diversity — in campus efforts to advance diversity in the curriculum and by other means.

Kathawa, writing on his resolution’s defeat in the Michigan Review, expressed disappointment at the results:

That there is not broad agreement that free speech ought to be a universally beloved value serves only to show how coarsened our shared political life has become, how politicized even our university—and universities across the country—has become. Free speech is not a partisan, Left-Right issue. It is, rather, the “great leveler”; it allows all persons, without regard for social identity—whether “oppressed” or “privileged”—to speak, persuade, and learn. It is because of free speech that our society may identify problems, discuss them candidly, come to a consensus about what to do, and then continue to survive. …

During the proceedings, CSG members disingenuously conflated lawful, peaceful protests—protests that allow campus events to proceed to their completion and which I support—with tantrums-cum-riots—infantile displays of irrational revulsion to ideas that do us all a disservice: stifling free expression, perpetuating a dangerous herd mentality, and leading in at least one instance to the physical assault of a left-wing scholar (nobody’s safe!) …

Certain members of CSG also unmasked themselves as would-be censorious authoritarians. Members explicitly stated that certain views were not welcome on campus. They would gleefully deprive you—an autonomous moral agent—of the right to hear what you want to hear and to then make your own judgment on the information.

The University of Michigan student government is not the first to reject a pro-free speech resolution.

In November, a similar measure was rejected by Tufts University’s student government, whose members called the effort to broaden and clarify students’ First Amendment rights “unsafe.”

Other examples abound of students at campuses across the country rejecting the notions underpinning the First Amendment.

MORE: Mizzou student government VP is ‘tired of hearing’ about First Amendment protections

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.