March 27, 2014

EUGENE VOLOKH: UC Santa Barbara Vice Chancellor issues statement supporting free speech.

Here’s a statement sent around to UCSB students by Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, in the wake of the prosecution of UCSB Prof. Mireille Miller-Young for stealing and destroying a protester’s sign, and assaulting the protester.

The statement does speak out strongly in favor of free speech, which is good. It also doesn’t mention Prof. Miller-Young, whether by name or behavior, which strikes me as harder to justify. The letter urges people not to “adopt negative tactics and engage in name calling, confrontation, provocation, and offensive behavior,” an odd way of expressing things when the letter was obviously prompted by an incident that led to criminal theft, vandalism, and assault charges. Perhaps the university thought a condemnation of theft and violence would be superfluous, but would it? See, for instance, this “Support and Be in Solidarity with UCSB Professor Miller Young” petition. Or perhaps the university thought the request that students not “lash out” (however “satisfying” that might be) would be enough, though again that seems pretty generic given the incident that indirectly prompted the letter.

But beyond that, note the dismissive language about, for instance, how “outsiders” and “evangelical types” come to “create discord” and “promote personal causes and agendas.” (What exactly does the word “personal” mean there, by the way?)

Would such a letter come out about outside activists coming to, for instance, argue for race-based affirmative action? For legalization of illegal immigrants? For greater protection for abortion rights? Would the university condemn the “discord” and “conflict” these “outsiders” bring with their “personal causes and agendas”? Would it condemn gruesome images of lynchings, war victims, people who died in the desert trying to cross the border illegally, women killed by unsafe illegal abortions, or animals killed in allegedly inhumane slaughterhouses as “distressing and offensive”? Would it advise people to “ignore” the “provocative and offensive” speech, because “the visitors will hate that”? Maybe it would, but I doubt it.

So do I. Plus, from the comments:

UCSB is a public university. It’s job is to educate the public and it is funded by the public. The idea that they are a closed community with superior ideas and principles and that those who are not enrolled there and who do not share their view are “outsiders” is appalling. This is a prime example of “othering” that the left is always criticizing – except when they do it.

And they do it a lot. Plus: “Why is he writing a letter to the students? It is the faculty that appears to need the lesson on the 1st amendment.”

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