We have been discussing the increasing pressures on academics in what is an increasingly hostile atmosphere for academic freedom and free speech. The latest example is out of Boise State University where students are calling for the termination of Professor Scott Yenor for “hate speech” because of his published criticism of radical feminism. While there are obviously good-faith reasons to criticism Yenor’s views, his article explores how some feminists have in his view undermined parental rights in transgender cases. Instead of simply responding to his arguments, liberal students are seeking his firing by the university in an all-too-familiar pattern.
In an article in the Daily Signal entitled“Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights,” Yenor criticizes the same-sex marriage ruling as part of a trend that “undermined sex roles within marriage. It put children ever more outside the purpose of marriage. It reinforced the idea that all means of sexual satisfaction are equal.” He accuses “radical feminists” and “transgender rights activists” of undermining the traditional family through pushing transgender rights for “ever-younger children.” The effort, he argues, is “seeking to abridge parental rights by elevating the independent choices of young children.”
I have long supported same-sex marriage, so I strongly disagree with Yenor’s argument but that does not mean that it constitutes “hate speech” or a cause for termination.
Yet, a petition with a couple thousand signatures calls for Yenor’s termination and accused Yenor of promoting “an ideology of violence.” Joe Goode, president of Boise State’s Young Democrats, told KTVB news that “In our belief, this is hate speech, and it’s alienating a lot of folks in this Boise State community.” So arguing against expanded transgender rights and same-sex marriage is now hate speech? Would academics criticizing conservative groups or the alt-right agenda and Christian orthodoxy also be hate speech?
While the university have reaffirmed Yenor’s free speech rights, a university diversity official reportedly compared Yenor to a Neo-Nazi.
It seems unlikely that these students will succeed in their effort to fire this academic but what concerns me is the trend to try to block or fire those with opposing views on campuses. Yenor brings a different view and values to the debate. The difference of such views enhances a university as a forum for free thought. The inclination to destroy rather than debate people with opposing views is becoming the norm. Critics now simply label opposing views as hate speech and demand the removal academics. It is an attack not just on academic freedom but free speech itself.