The Cases Are a Dime a Dozen
(But Groups Are Opposing Campus Thought Control)
so often, an item comes to my attention it may be an article,
a personal email or even a book arguing that political correctness
doesnít really exist. We angry white guys just made it all up, because
we resent the improved status of women, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals
in this society. I usually brush off such claims. After all, their
ad hominem aspects ought to be evident. But even if they
are not, the cases of politically unpopular points of view being
punished on campuses keep coming up, one after another. After over
15 years of political correctness, these cases are now a dime a
dozen, as is other evidence of an environment that just keeps getting
more bizarre. There is good news, however: organized resistance
has emerged, and is gaining in strength. The situation on Americaís
college and university campuses is therefore not hopeless.
the past year Iíve followed the case of the "token conservative"
who was kicked off the Miami Student, the student newspaper
of Miami University a fairly small and exclusive school in
Oxford, Ohio. Little over a year ago on Jan. 17, 2003
the student, Aaron Sanders, published a column entitled "Hold
MU Professors Accountable." He charged MU professors not just
with politicizing the classroom environment but with adopting pedagogical
techniques that are inappropriate for a healthy learning environment.
He later recounted for The Washington Times, "I mentioned
one class where a professor of French surprised the class by replacing
her usual teaching with the showing of a film, ĎRidicule.í The film
opens with a man casually unzipping his pants, exposing himself
for all to see. After a lengthy close-up of his genitals, the man
urinates on another manís head. Beyond questioning the pedagogical
value of this film to a French class, I argued that if students
are going to be subjected to content such as this, the professor
should at least warn her students that the film contains images
that may deeply offend the sensibilities of many students."
added that the chair of this professorís department also engaged
in such antics and "justified that material as part of the
departmentís Ďcommitment to cultural diversity.í"
the publication of the initial column, a predictable howl ensued.
The departmental chair complained to the student newspaperís faculty
advisor, who in turn complained to the student editor-in-chief,
a Jill Inkrott, and demanded both Sandersí firing and that he be
forced to write an apology to the professors involved. Sanders indeed
was fired. Ironically, the faculty advisor of the student newspaper,
whose name was Cheryl Heckler, was reportedly a "self-styled
crusader against censorship and oppression who is published often
on the subject of freedom of speech."
interrogators demanded that he reveal the names of his sources,
students who had been enrolled in the class. He refused, and later
wrote for The Washington Times, "I was stunned with
the unmistakable possibility that students will be retaliated against
for expressing their candid views on what happened in the classroom.
I told Miss Inkrott that the facts in the article are not in dispute
and that I would not be co-opted into a witch hunt."
to Thor Halvorssen of the Foundation
for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the organization
that assisted Aaron Sanders, "This goes on all the time. It
is a national scandal." Halvorssen continued, "It is unbearable
that a professor and journalist will demand a forced apology and
seek the termination of a student columnist because his honest criticism
is politically incorrect."
Polytechnic State University is in federal court over an incident
that happened in November of 2002 in which a student was censored
for putting up a flier with a politically incorrect message on it
at the student multicultural center. The student, Steve Hinkle,
was accused and found guilty of "disruption" after posting
the flier deemed "offensive" by a number of black students
because they portrayed a dissident black author, Mason Weaver, alongside
the title of his book Itís
Okay to Leave the Plantation. Weaver had argued that the
government, via programs such as affirmative action, have placed
American blacks in a position not dissimilar to what they faced
under slavery. Although Hinkle left without posting the flier, one
of the black students called the police anyway to complain of "hate
speech against us." Hinkle was called onto the carpet and spent
seven hours being grilled by Cal Poly authorities. He was ordered
to write letters of apology to the offended students, who alleged
they had been holding a Bible study, although according to witnesses
no Bibles had been evident in the area. Hinkle was threatened with
expulsion from the university if he refused.
went first to FIRE and was referred to the Washington, D.C.-based
Center for Individual Rights
(CIR) for legal representation. Last September, CIR and co-counsel
Carol Sobel of Santa Monica, Calif., filed a First Amendment lawsuit
against Cal Poly, which included a temporary restraining order for
the immediate protection of Hinkleís freedom of speech rights (this
latter was denied). The case is pending. Terence Pell, President
of CIR, stated in a press release, "Posting a flier on a public
bulletin board announcing a talk on a topic of public importance
is at the heart of the First Amendment. The school cannot punish
Hinkle simply because students find the topic controversial.
he elaborated, "can't mean one rule of conduct for one race
and another rule for other races. True diversity means the same
rule for all students, regardless of race. Higher education officials
say racial preferences are necessary to promote diversity. Now they're
trying to punish students for engaging in exactly the sort of back-and-forth
that racial diversity is supposed to promote."
both of these cases, the campus thought police have run up against
stiff and determined opposition.
Christian groups on campuses are sometimes the target of censorship
and exclusionary campaigns, including at universities with religious
affiliations and missions. Also last fall, the Gonzaga University
School of Lawís Student Bar Association refused to recognize a student
organization, the Gonzaga Pro-Life Law Caucus, on the grounds that
the group explicitly required that its leadership be Christian.
The Student Bar Association deemed this "discriminatory."
Spokane, Wash.based Catholic universityís mission statement
explicitly calls for "providing interested students with a
supportive setting to explore and deepen their Christian faith within
our warm and welcoming environment for students of all religious
backgrounds or secular moral traditions." Again, after exhausting
internal mechanisms for appeal, the Gonzaga Pro-Life Law Caucus
also turned to FIRE, which sent a letter to Gonzagaís president,
Father Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. a Jesuit. "We live in
a strange age, indeed, when a Catholic, Jesuit university would
deny a Christian pro-life group recognition because its religious
nature is considered discriminatory," said Greg Lukianoff,
spokesman for FIRE.
far, Father Spitzer has not responded to FIRE, leaving the Gonzaga
Pro-Life Law Caucus without the official recognition afforded other
law student groups, including the Sexual Orientation Diversity Alliance,
the Armed Forces Law Club, and the Women's Law Caucus, among others.
Thus far, what most of us would consider the good guys are still
struggling for survival in this case. The irony here is that Spitzer
is the founder of a group called the University Faculty For Life.
University also punished the campus College Republicans group for
are you ready for this? using the word hate
on a flier but applying it to the left. The flier was for
a campus appearance by Daniel J. Flynn, author of Why
the Left Hates America, sponsored by the College Republicans
and the Young Americaís Foundation.
displays this phrase LEFT HATES prominently, enlarging the lettering.
According to official politically correct ideology, of course, hate
is a product of the right, not the left. So it was unsurprising
that despite the fact that both the book and the speech were critical
of hate who isnít? the College Republicans became
targets. Having had copies of the fliers ripped down, including
by university officials, they were forced to revise the content
of the flier to reflect the fact that the phrase LEFT HATES was
part of a book title. This despite the fact that the original flier
had received pre-approval for posting. The University placed a disciplinary
letter in the campus groupís official file reporting on the groupís
"discriminatory" word "hate," which might itself
constitute "hate speech." Paul Schafer, president of the
College Republicans, said bemusedly, "I never imagined that
someone would call the title of a book discriminatory hate speech."
In response to FIREís protests, Father Spitzer had the letter removed
from the groupís file. Later he would deny that the University had
punished the College Republicans at all. For all practical purposes,
though, the good guys won this one.
multiculturalism now the reigning ideology of academia, it remains
very difficult to hold constructive debates over policies such as
affirmative action on campuses. Some students have adapted to the
situation by using satire and subtle ridicule to make their points.
A reader of my
recent piece on affirmative action the one that was ignored
by Columbiaís city newspaper reminded me of the "affirmative
action bake sales" that were held on several campuses last
fall. At the University of Washington in Seattle, the College
Republicans put on such an event. They set out a display of baked
goods along with a mock menu that priced the items differently for
different races and ethnic groups on campus. Black and Hispanic
students would pay less than white or Asian students for the same
item. The group wasnít serious about selling baked goods, of course.
It was satire, drawing attention to the inequities involved in such
procedures as preferential student admissions. The result, however,
was such hostility that the police had to be called to head off
a situation that was turning violent, including ripping down signs
and (according to one report) throwing a box of cookies into a studentís
face. The police then closed down the "bake sale." Later,
the administration issued a letter condemning the College Republicans
for being "hurtful." The letter did not mention the violent
tactics that were used to disrupt what had been a peaceful protest
of a very controversial university policy. Halvorssen observed:
"This is outrageous. It sends a chilling message to students
who wish to engage in honest disagreement. Had this been a protest
in favor of affirmative action and thus likely to offend the College
Republicans would hurt feelings have had any standing whatsoever
in the hearts and minds of the Board of Regents? The double standard
least four other "affirmative action bake sales" were
similarly forcibly shut down on four other campuses around the country
last fall (University of California at Irvine, Northwestern University,
Southern Methodist University, the College of William & Mary).
However, we must note that campus administrations in three other
locations (Indiana University, Texas A & M and University of
TexasAustin) allowed the satirical protests to go on as planned.
It is good to know that there are a few places left where the First
Amendment is still recognized. Again, the situation is not hopeless.
involving censorship and suppression of politically unpopular ideas
are only one aspect of the mounting craziness we have seen on campuses
during the past two decades, however. Occasionally one comes across
a development that sounds like something straight out of The
Twilight Zone. The Young Americaís Foundation keeps regular
track of the annual Top
Ten Campus Follies. Carrying away the #1 prize for 2003 was
Wesleyan University in Connecticut. This institution of higher learning
now has among its facilities a "gender blind" dormitory
floor for incoming students who arenít sure what sex they are. Students
requesting the floor can be assigned roommates without regard to
their sex real, perceived, or otherwise. Apparently there is now
a category called the transgender student who doesnít identify
with a (his? her?) physical sex. To my knowledge no one has been
censored or attacked over this. But then again, no Aaron Sanders
has penned an article dropping the suggestion that these people
need to have their heads examined.
was 2003. The good news is that there are organizations such as
FIRE, CIR and YAF that are exposing political correctness, battling
back against double standards and lampooning outright absurdity.
Moreover, there are a few students who have gone on the offensive
and formed campus organizations of their own. Take for example Anthony
Dick, a summer intern for FIRE concerned about the threats to free
speech on campus. He went to the University of Virginia last fall
and promptly formed the Individual
Rights Coalition. Its first mission was to organize resistance
to a proposed diversity training program that would be mandatory
for all students. Dick and other members of the new group were able
to gather 500 signatures in opposition to the program, forcing the
university into a dialogue.
efforts offer encouraging news. But their advocates nevertheless
face a long, uphill struggle against a now well-entrenched orthodoxy.
After all, we can still wonder what will erupt on our campuses during
January 28, 2004
Yates [send him mail]
Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and next
January will be joining the adjunct faculty of Limestone College.
He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com