Saturday, February 27, 2016

The sad state of free speech in college

I just saw some videos of the shameful assault on free speech at CSULA by students, faculty, and the president of the university. A speaker named Ben Shapiro was set to give a talk called "When Diversity Becomes a Problem" and had received permission and a venue to speak. In the week before the event, students demanded that the event be shut down, citing the usual (and usually false) claims of "racism" and "hate speech." The president canceled the event, but Young Americans for Freedom and Shapiro decided to hold the event anyway. A professor, Robert Weide, threatened to assault students sponsoring the event. Shortly before the talk started, the president un-cancelled the event, but hundreds of students barricaded the doors to prevent Shapiro and the audience from getting in the room. Here are some videos I found of the event.

And here is the video of the speech.

Shapiro and the students had to sneak in through the back, escorted by police. Keep in mind that this is a college campus in America in 2016 and not French Resistance fighters in Nazi Germany.

That college students in a civilized country would resort to physical force to try to shut down free speech is appalling in itself, but there is something deeper that is wrong with it. The students, and the faculty and administration which encourages and supports them, are mounting a direct assault on the very concept of college education. Let me explain.

The purpose of college is to learn facts and methods for understanding and integrating facts. This assumes that people are capable of learning, otherwise attending college would be pointless, as no transmission of ideas between people would be possible. The reason that people go to a college campus rather than simply checking out books from a library is so that they can exchange ideas with other people in person. Finally, the process of learning requires each individual judge for him or herself the validity and merit of any idea before deciding whether to accept or reject it. If this were not the case, then everyone could save a lot of time and trouble by printing out a list of views and values to unquestioningly accept and we wouldn't need to waste time with asking "why."

The students and administration are directly attacking the process of learning through exposure to new ideas. They are saying "because some people do not like this idea, nobody is allowed to hear it." It is particularly ironic that the people demanding forced ignorance because Imagine if this principle were practiced consistently throughout a college. All it would take is one flat earther to shut down the geology department, one intelligent designer to shut down the biology department, or one person who can't speak Spanish to shut down the Spanish department. The students, faculty, and administration are attempting to make the truth subject to a tearful veto in which anyone who is offended by an idea can have that idea banned from campus.

If you are at college not to learn and help others learn, but to avoid new ideas and resort to violence to prevent others from learning, you have no business being at a college. The proper response from the administration would be to suspend or expel every student who blocked access to the lecture. By their actions, these students have shown that they are enemies of thought and learning. Such a person at a university is like having a Luddite who wants to smash all computers working at a tech company, a police officer who thinks that crime is superior to law, or a child-murdering babysitter. Their beliefs are in irreconcilable conflict with their occupation and the only solution is to remove them from said occupation. A student who refuses to learn or to let others learn has no business being a student.

Of course, the administration has shown that they are unwilling to defend their academic integrity (or legal requirements of a state school). I would be extremely surprised if any of the enemies of thought and learning received so much as a slap on the wrist. The fact that the administration tolerates and encourages this kind of behavior only serves to teach the students both at CSULA and elsewhere that violence is an acceptable and legitimate means of resolving differences of opinion. It is this point which has me worried. When people come to accept that ideas can be countered by physical force, then we are truly screwed. I hope, but do not expect, university administrations to come to their senses before too many more students are taught that censorship is good.

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