Democratic Commissioner Suggests Need For Greater Speech Limitations On College Campuses

bio_yakiThere is a disturbing story how this week concerning the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and specifically Commissioner Michael Yaki, a Democratic appointee who was a former senior adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Yaki spoke on sexual harassment law in education, a subject on which I have previously written to express my concerns over the loss of due process rights for accused students. Yaki’s comments however seem to threaten core free speech principles as he laid out his view of the need to curtail harmful speech. Yaki spoke of the need to outlaw unpopular or what he considers degrading speech because college students are too impressionable.

He highlighted the types of speech that he want banned as including certain types of fraternity or parody displays considered offensive. He also included pageants as possible speech crimes due to the dangers inherent in “a situation involving women” in which they “parade around in skimpy clothing and turn in some show or something.”

He then added: “I mean where do you think you can, that the university can’t deal with ensuring the route it has environment that is not oppressive or hostile because obviously a campus, especially certain types of campuses where there’s a lot of — where — that are geographically compact, that have a lot of working and living situations in a close area to create a campus atmosphere . . . Doesn’t that gravitate toward having greater ability to proscribe certain types of conduct that have the ability to escalate beyond what anyone would consider to be reasonable or acceptable?”

Whatever that may mean, Yaki then made the most dangerous turn of his comments in suggesting that speech limitations are appropriate on college campuses under the same theory as applied to elementary students: “It has to do with science. More and more, the vast majority, in fact — I think — overall in bodies of science is that young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.” Yaki’s distinction between “the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information” and “adult brains” would allow for sweeping speech limitations. He simply declared that even college brains are “vastly different from the way that we adults do.” He added that “when we sit back and talk about what is right or wrong in terms of First Amendment jurisprudence from a reasonable person’s standpoint, we are really not looking into the same referential viewpoint.” This distinction, he argued, offers “very good and compelling reasons why broader policies and prohibitions on conduct in activities and in some instances speech are acceptable on a college campus level that might not be acceptable say in an adult work environment or in an adult situation.”

We have seen in recent years increasing demands for the curtailment of speech as hate crimes or forms of discrimination. We have even seen professors engage in alleged crimes to stop speech on subjects like abortion. While Republicans were once criticized in the 1960s as hostile to campus speech, it now appears that Democrats are more often demanding the criminalization or the banning of different forms of speech. The suggestion that college brains are undeveloped and requiring protection from bad speech is truly unnerving.

Source: Yahoo. Eugene Volokh first reported on these statements by Yaki.

111 thoughts on “Democratic Commissioner Suggests Need For Greater Speech Limitations On College Campuses”

  1. Mike Appleton,

    It wasn’t a disruption of a ROTC training event.

    The incident in question was that fall’s college activities fair with a military students group table manned by an Army CPT grad student, Marines officer candidate undergrad, and a Marines reservist undergrad.

    Campus leftists surrounded the table, yelled at the students with some ugly stuff, made ugly accusations meant for passerby to hear, made aggressive gestures, scattered all the group’s materials and generally made it impossible for the group to participate in the college activities fair. Other students either gave the area a wide berth to avoid the scene or gawked at the ugly scene. It’s only called a “verbal attack” because no physical assault occurred. But the damage was done.

    It wasn’t a debate of ideas among students. It was a ‘shut down’ action. For example, the Army CPT and the USMC OC belatedly realized that the confrontation might have led to a career-harming incident. That placed their future visible participation with the group in doubt. As much as they wanted to support the group (which is why they were on scene in the 1st place), it wasn’t worth it for them.

    When the USMCR undergrad sought a University solution, the University begged off. The leftists told their version, did what radical campus leftists do, and the administration’s’ ‘out’ was that military status was not a protected status.

    At first, MilVets leadership only monitored but didn’t act formally. However, in internal polling, the president discovered a common perception, campus climate, and pattern among individual members that clearly was retarding the communal condition necessary for the group to develop.

    The University reaction to the fall 2005 incident was hallmark. If not intimidated, members were at least discouraged to visibly participate in group activity. It was killing the group in the crib. The president found enough there to compel him to act.

    Because the president made the leadership call in spring 2006 and pursued it, the necessary communal condition was set so that members bought in. The administration was sensitized. As a result, MilVets today has developed into one of the most active and University-lauded ‘affinity’ groups on campus. The spring 2006 action was a key link in the chain of events that led the University to renormalize relations with ROTC in 2011.

    Have MilVets ever used their ‘safe space’ offensively as a ‘speech code’? No, nor will they ever. They’ve always welcomed debate and engagement, which is embedded in their founding purpose.

    At the same time, the protected designation has been instrumental for the communal condition that was practically necessary for the establishment of the group on campus. Everything else followed. Free speech doesn’t thrive in a vacuum. It’s ineffective if there’s no effective practical vehicle to speak from.

  2. Thanks Nick. I had absented myself more (although the last couple of days made up for that ((*_*)) ) but I won’t be leaving the blog. I do sometimes just stop my part of the discussion when it seems to get too long/involved and I am not willing to do more googling etc.
    I learn a lot from many folk here, and definitely you.
    (I am sorry too that some people have left but I see some have reappeared and hopefully they will continue to do so.)

  3. Eric:

    LOL. Please. I was an Army ROTC cadet at Harvard in the late ’60s. The argument for “safe spaces” to protect people from verbal intimidation is nonsensical. When speech is hostile is precisely when it requires protection. If hostility devolves to the level of assault, we have laws and procedures in place to deal with it.

    When people attempt to disrupt (i.e., prevent) a speaker from proceeding, whether on a university campus or in a political town hall meeting, those persons should be removed. But we should neither attempt to restrict the expression of ideas or the expression of opposition to those ideas.

    1. Mike – we can both agree that you are right, but it is not changing the free speech on campus.

  4. leej, Perception is reality, There has been a huge shift here since January. You long for the “good ol’ days.” I can assure you, if you were not a liberal during that era, it was not so good. I was called every name in the book as were the few folks not members of the club. The CONSTANT barrage of “racist, sexist, homophobe, sociopath, liar,” and many more epithets has ceased. I was called all those things and some still do call me racist. JT made it safe for people not liberal to join here. But, KarenS and others have been called some of those. I mention Karen because she is in many ways, your counterpart. You are a classy, thoughtful, liberal woman, Karen the same, only conservative.

    The transition was not pretty. There is some backlash, people are human and flawed. The most disappointing aspect of all this for me is how some former regulars have taken their ball to play elsewhere. JT has said he did not want an echo chamber, some folks actions show that is what they wanted. Well, to each their own. I did not, and do not want, an echo chamber. My actions of coming into the belly of the beast 2 years ago proves that. And, my aforementioned disappointment of liberal folks leaving corroborates that. Finally, JT does not want this hashed out here. I would ask that you email me if you want to continue this discussion. You are a valuable asset here and it would be horrible if you left.

  5. Mike Appleton: “I’ll admit that I am a free speech absolutist, but if people are not able to say whatever they think on a university campus, we are lost.”

    The challenge is differentiating between a ‘speech code’ (bad) and a ‘safe space’ (good).

    A ‘safe space’ is supposed to be a defensive measure that facilitates diversity in the campus community so that people can express differently without fear of intimidation or worse. It’s needed when there are bigots who feel free and even compelled to aggressively culturally cleanse the campus community.

    For example:

    But ‘safe space’ (ie, anti-discrimination) policies are too often abused by those same bigots as an offensive ‘speech code’ in their goal to bring about a culturally homogeneous campus.

  6. MikeA, You are preachin’ to the choir. I returned to school @ the Mecca of speech codes.

  7. leejcarroll said: “Maybe I have not paid close attention but it seems that the right, in particular, on this blog has more and more often been insulting and demeaning to those with whom they disagree rather then mounting legitimate debate and argument.”



    You have been paying close attention. You know whereof you speak.

  8. Nick:

    I don’t mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but it seems that we keep fighting battles that we once considered won. The battle over free speech is one of them. I’ll admit that I am a free speech absolutist, but if people are not able to say whatever they think on a university campus, we are lost.

  9. MikeA, I think you’re being too critical. This discussion has been pretty good. This isn’t a Mensa blog. We’re just regular folk trying to do our best.

  10. samantha – I suggest you go to Modern Steak. They will fix your filet anyway you want.

  11. The only “laughing” on campuses today is the mocking laughter of liberal elitists ridiculing people w/ different perspectives. I was SHOCKED when I returned to school 15 years ago, and any free thinker from my era would not even recognize the culture. It’s frightening and depressing.

  12. Paul Schulte:

    Speech codes are meaningless to morons. And there are already civil and criminal remedies for speech that incites a criminal act or which creates an imminent risk of harm.

  13. Mike – with your feelings about free speech on campus, you might like to joint Prof. Jacobsen at College Insurrection or FIRE. They keep on top of these stuff.

  14. Once again a topic has degenerated into a series of pointless exchanges over who is to blame for everything under the sun.

    Mr. Yaki is attempting to support an indefensible position with incomprehensible arguments. I attended college from 1965 to 1969. He would have been laughed off campus in those years. College students should be occupying presidents’ offices all over this country to protest university speech codes. They should not exist.

  15. Michael Yaki @Yakiblog
    @leejcaroll my quotes were from a line of questioning. Doesn’t reflect my conclusion on subject.

    Yaki’s reply to my clarify hope.

    I guess I would have to read the full text of his comments to see if he is backtracking or being honest

    1. I just found a bunch pending and released them. WordPress seems carnivorous today.

      1. Jonathan – there is a problem with WordPress that really needs to be fixed. It started last week and has been constant but random.

  16. Lacking decent food labeling laws, we really don’t know what is in our food. Soy and soy byproducts are concealed in virtually anything today. Because it’s widely used in stock feed, beef today isn’t your grandfather’s beef, its taste so contaminated and horrible, the only way people will eat is by marinating it first. Go into any Outback restaurant, demand that they serve your sirloin straight up, without tenderizers, flavor enhancers and other chemical additives, and they will tell you, if they are honest, that they cannot do it. And if somehow they can, you will taste the most horrible beef imaginable, something that will immediately conjure the thought of mad cow disease or worse. Yet, if you are among the hundreds of millions who regularly feast on processed foods at the deli counter, eat 60 hot dogs annually (someone is eating 120), or gorge yourself on hamburgers in restaurants and fast food outlets, you are eating the tainted food I have just described. And it’s not just with meat products. Look at the ingredients on a jar of peanut butter, which even the psychopaths in the food industry cannot keep their hands off, diluting the actual peanuts with anything to hold down the cost. It won’t say BPA, but the plastic container is a dead giveaway. When Johnny is diagnosed with HDDA, don’t switch to organic peanut butter, just put him on Adderal. Yet people continue to buy food packaged in plastic. It’s just outrageous insanity, people offering themselves up to be fleeced, as though sheep.

    1. Mike – the problem is that the speech codes are controlling the campus and students (not faculty or staff) are being harmed by them.

Comments are closed.