Senate's Campus Free Speech Hearings Overlook Major Culprit

At Universities, Speech Often Stifled by Faculty Action or Complicity
Faculty Are Often to Blame When Free Speech is Denied on College Campuses
Faculty Are Often to Blame When Free Speech is Denied on College Campuses
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Senate Hearing
Free Speech


Washington - District of Columbia - US

WASHINGTON - June 20, 2017 - PRLog -- The Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing today entitled "The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses" heard many witnesses bemoan that U.S. campuses have gone from bastions of free speech to its burial grounds, but it will largely ignore a major cause, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

        In an increasing number of cases, faculty members are directly involved in the suppression of free speech and academic freedom by causing or supporting it, while in many additional cases it happens because faculty - especially law school faculty who often profess strong support for free speech - stand idly by and do nothing to strengthen the backbones of hapless administrators by opposing it, he says.

        For example, more than 50 professors demanded a "disciplinary investigation" of a professor who explained: "an angry mob of about 50 students disrupted my class, called me a racist, and demanded that I resign. My 'racist' offense? I had challenged coercive segregation by race. Specifically, I had objected to a planned "Day of Absence" in which white people were asked to leave campus on April 12."

        At Middlebury College, where a visiting speaker was attacked, and his faculty host had to be hospitalized as a result, all professors in more than a dozen departments refused to sign a statement protesting against "efforts to silence speech and debate."

        At University of Missouri, it was a professor who used force to block a journalist trying to cover an event, and many of her faculty colleagues defended her, ironically citing academic freedom.

        These are only the most outrageous examples, says Banzhaf.

        In the much larger number of cases says Banzhaf, college administrators clearly violate the First Amendment rights of students, yet the professors - especially law professors who should know better - say and do nothing, and all too often the college caves in to the students, even to the point where college presidents and faculty have been forced from the university.

        When a small group of protesters present a list of demands, administrators are pressured to capitulate, even though the students represent only a tiny fraction of those enrolled.  This almost happened at George Washington, except that Banzhaf went to the media to ridicule their ridiculous demands.

        Finally, says Banzhaf, faculty often encourage students to disrupt speakers and engage in other improper if not illegal acts by trying to convince them that the First Amendment and academic freedom don't cover so-called "hate speech," or speech which some tiny group labels racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.

        Faculty also undermine free speech by persuading students that anything which upsets them is profoundly wrong, and that they are therefore entitled to be protected from it at all costs.

        Because of events such as the shooting in Ferguson and the election of President Trump, faculty cancelled classes, postponed exams, and even set up counseling sessions.

        Two law schools went even further, one providing an "embedded psychologist" in a room full of bubbles and play dough, and another a room with nap pads, bean bag chairs, and yoga mats.

        By wussifying students, even graduate law students who are being trained to stand up to stressful situations, faculty invite and encourage flagrant violations of free speech, he says.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418  @profbanzhaf

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