I have been writing about the increasingly hostile environment for conservatives and libertarians on our campuses as professors and activists shutdown events and censor or sanction unpopular views. The latest such case can be found at Cal State LA where officials canceled a speech by conservative journalist Ben Shapiro after students complained that they feared for their safety due to the mere fact of a conservative speaking on campus. Activists further compared the event to an “undercover KKK meeting.” Emails obtained by the site Heat Street through the Freedom of Information Act showed both the successful campaign to bar Shapiro as well as the backlash from people who believe in free speech.
One email on Dec. 7, 2015 was from Scott Bowman, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, who informed top administrators, including President William Covino, that a conservative group on campus planned to invite Shapiro to speak. Bowman acknowledges that “Nothing he says is hate speech in my view but his critiques of the Left’s obsession with micro-aggressions and various tactics of groups (e.g., Black Lives Matter) would be labeled racist by them, which is his point, by the way.” Bowman does say that students have a right to hear from him.
Bowman in another email suggests that the school should put Shapiro in a “designated place” because “we don’t want to put him in a forum that will incite.” Later, however, Bowman effectively cancelled the event after both professors and students rose up against allowing people to hear Shapiro. The inclusion of faculty in this effort to silence opposing views is particularly chilling. One student wrote “I DO NOT FEEL SAFE! . . . The fact that so many right wing conservatives that own guns RSVPd to this event makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.” The student added “We should be able to go to an event without worrying about our safety. And frankly this event sounds like an undercover KKK meeting. This event in general speaks volumes as to how little our lives matter…”
Shapiro showed up anyway and was met by protesters who sought to prevent him from speaking or prevent follow students from hearing his views. Students who did not even attend the speech wrote the university about being traumatized by the fact that Shapiro spoke on campus.
The incident — including the involvement of faculty seeking to silence a conservative — reflects the growing intolerance and taste for speech controls on our college and university campuses. We are seeing faculty who teach students that it is right and honorable to silence opposing views and disrupt events that you do not like. Free speech is now viewed as the enemy of diversity as both academics and students seek to prevent the still ill-defined “microaggressions” on campus. We are raising a generation of speech censors and bullies who believe that they have a right to stop others from hearing views that they find obnoxious or insulting.
What do you think?