Molotov Cocktails, Banned Constitutions, Forced White Absence: The Worst Colleges for Free Speech
This week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its list of the ten worst colleges for free speech. Each campus has a unique story, but four in particular stood out for the gross attacks on conservatives, or just people refusing to play along with "social justice" demands.
Perhaps ironically, students themselves suffer when their social justice activism silences dissent. "The quality of students' in-class education suffers when faculty are afraid to raise thought-provoking questions and engage students in difficult conversations for fear of student complaints," Samantha Harris, FIRE's vice president of policy research, told PJ Media.
"Outside the classroom, meanwhile, students who do not meaningfully engage with viewpoints they disagree with — or even find offensive — do not get the opportunity to sharpen their own argumentation skills," she added. "This is one of the great dangers of the polarized bubbles we find ourselves in — when all we ever hear are caricatured versions of the other side's views filtered through people we agree with, we don't have the opportunity to strengthen our own arguments."
Higher education used to be about engaging in this kind of debate, expanding your horizons. On many campuses, students and faculty undermine even the possibility of this kind of dialogue, leaving students mentally impoverished and quick to anger.
Here are four examples of the worst campuses for conservatives (and two for liberals).
1. Banning the Constitution — in Spanish.
Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) consists of nine campuses, most of which are off-limits to free speech, with the exception of limited "free speech zones," FIRE noted. While this policy is bad enough to put LACCD on the list of the ten worst colleges for free speech, one particular example illustrates just why such policies undermine education.
Kevin Shaw, a student at Los Angeles Pierce College, was told he could not hand out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty outside the tiny free speech zone. The zone is about the size of three parking spaces — a minuscule 0.003 percent of the campus.
On March 28, 2017, Shaw filed a lawsuit against LACCD and Pierce College administrators with FIRE's help. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case, arguing that the college had indeed violated the First Amendment.
Last month, the court rejected LACCD administrators' attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that open, outdoor areas of Pierce's campus are public forums for student speech.
In a similar case last year, Kellogg Community College (KCC) students were actually put in jail for attempting to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus. These restrictive speech codes can do serious damage.