Brown University Under Fire In Documentary On the Denial of Free Speech On Campus

imagesBrown university is the subject of intense criticism in the wake of a documentary from one of its graduates on the evisceration of free speech on campus. The elite school has followed the same course of other schools in declaring speech or symbols “micro aggressions” and allowing students to prevent speakers from appearing on campus or addressing other students. The film by Rob Montz is scathing and embarrassing as he shows students successfully barring people from uttering opposing views or shouting down a man because he is a white heterosexual.

This includes students proudly talking about how they succeeded to forcing the cancelation of a speech by the New York Police Commissioners because “tough questions are not enough” and some ideas should never be expressed on campus.

While Brown University has dismissed the film, it shows ridiculous scenes of students who clearly believe that they have a protected right to silence those with whom they disagree as well as faculty who have legitimized the attack on free speech.

Here is the Montz film:

44 thoughts on “Brown University Under Fire In Documentary On the Denial of Free Speech On Campus”

  1. Late to the party, but this just got a reddit bump.

    I think this pretty badly oversimplifies what is going on, and really shows how little homework and research the filmmaker did.

    First, the student response to “Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion” was not just some kind of poorly considered attempt at rebellion for its own sake. A lot of students simply felt it didn’t go anywhere near far enough, and that the University was more paying lip service to their demands than trying to meet them at the table. Showing the faux pas where a student mistakenly calls a homosexual admin heterosexual is not very indicative of what was really going on or why students felt the need to make themselves heard. (As an aside, during my time at Brown, it was incredibly difficult to get in the room with an administrator to make suggestions or try and change anything, and often times being pushy was absolutely the only way)

    Second, there is an important distinction between shouting down Ray Kelly and shouting down a random lecture because the content upsets you. In general, I too am wary of invoking ‘safe space’ arguments to determine what is and isn’t allowed to be said. However, Kelly was at Brown specifically to talk about the ‘success’ of the stop and frisk program in NYC. Providence Police Officers and BroPo were also there. Stop and frisk is an actively violent, racist policing tactic, which is why De Blasio nixed it. It is one thing to debate policing, but it is another thing entirely to invite the architect of stop and frisk to extol its virtues and try to convince local cops to adopt it. Preventing Kelly from speaking is actively trying to curb violence towards people of color, and isn’t the same as shouting down a visiting professor with controversial views.

    Third, a lot of the criticism aimed at the BDH in the wake of those columns had to do with general quality control. Some people were invoking ‘personal harm’, but many others were simply pointing out that they were poorly penned and argued. It also had to do with the fact that at the time, activist groups had been frustrated with the amount of columns which they submitted that the BDH never published. Particularly, that they felt their columns were more rigorously thought out and researched than some of the one-off controversial ones that were run, perhaps for the sake of web traffic rather than intellectual value.

    Finally, before calling free speech, you have to remember that this is a private institution. Unlike in the public sphere, it is a privilege to speak there, not a right. There is plenty of quality control happening all the time. Brown doesn’t invite 9/11 truthers and Flat Worlders and people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old to speak. This isn’t to say that these sort of totally ridiculous ideas are in the same category as the ones that students are shouting down, but to remember that the bounds of discourse are, for good reason, monitored. Like all things, where the those bounds are set should be up for debate, and students should have some modicum of say in the matter since they comprise the vast majority of the population of the school.

    I’m not down with saying that anyone should be able to shout something down because they feel like it causes them personal harm. I think that the situation on college campuses is getting out of control. However, this video reads more like the filmmaker’s ideology, and to be honest, a little bit of a hit job, than a well thought out parsing of the situation. It is also pretty belittling to a bunch of kids who, despite being young, are really smart and have thought deeply about this stuff.

  2. I rarely respond to fools, but since I was mentioned, I have to note that Bob’s contention that the SLAVEOWNERS were LIBERTARIANS is breathtaking in its ignorance. It is obvious that you flunked US history and have NEVER read the US Constitution. Incredible! ALL of the states in 1776 were slave states by the way. I guess that your definition of freedom has more in common with Hitler. At least Stalin had his Constitution look good on paper, unlike the US one which referred to slaves as other persons. They had the good taste at least to be ashamed to use the term slave and to avoid the term. Now we have the Stalinist method of denying and censoring history. Must have graduated from Liberty U with a degree in history I think.

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