We have been discussing the erosion of free speech on our campuses across the country. Much of that trend is the result of faculty members who have taught that free speech itself is a threat to students. The erosion of free speech has come in stages. First, schools began to declare speech to be hate speech while creating “safe zones” from the exercise of free speech. Second, schools began to enforce the ill-defined “microaggressions” to punish speech that is deemed as contributing to hostile environments or fostering stereotypes. Now, faculty and students are increasing declaring opposing views as simply outside of the definition of free speech. That extreme argument was advanced this week by the editors of The Wellesley News who published a column entitled “Free Speech Is Not Violated At Wellesley.” It is chilling message from the Editorial Board composed of Co-Editors in Chief Sharvari Johari and Michele Lee and opinion editors Maya Nandakumar, Genae Matthews, and Tabitha Wilson. Once the champions of free speech, students have become the new censors and have adopted the perfectly Orwellian notion that the protection of free speech requires the denial of free speech.
The editors heralded the Wellesley students who refuse to respect the free speech rights of those deemed to be hateful. Simply defining such people as unworthy of free speech protections then allows the editors to become actual advocates of mob action to silence them:
“Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government.”
So speech deemed as “undermining the existence and rights of others” is all that is needed to relieve the conscience of these students and allow them to indulge in their desire to forcibly silence those with whom that disagree. There is no attempt of course to define what constitute speech that “undermines.” Rather the thrust is to legitimize the denial of free speech in the name of free speech.
Their bizarre understanding of free speech is laid out further in the statement that “The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.” Again, there is no definition of what is deemed “hateful” or “damaging” but it clearly does not include things that the editors agree with or have been taught are the products of ignorance: “We have all said problematic claims, the origins of which were ingrained in us by our discriminatory and biased society. Luckily, most of us have been taught by our peers and mentors at Wellesley in a productive way.”
The editors identify unworthy speakers as people who “support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will head to the harm of others.” The editors are entirely comfortable with that subjective line in isolating those who “prop up speech” considered “harmful.”
In a wonderfully condescending note, the editors acknowledge that their “preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn.” That is, learn that the views of the editors and other students are the correct views. However, the editors relieve themselves of any further responsibility for “those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so.” These are people in other words who refuse to be “mentored” and retain their beliefs.
Now that the editors have been properly educated that some views are unworthy of protection, they are ready to take the final step in calling for the silencing of those who “refuse to adapt their beliefs.” If those people still insist on being heard, the editors declared that “hostility may be warranted.” “Hostility”?
The war on free speech appears to have produced a perfect generation of petty tyrants “mentored” in the necessity — even the moral imperative — of silencing those with whom we disagree.
I suppose this is to be expected at a school with the motto: Non Ministrari sed Ministrare — Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.