The University of Illinois is facing criticism over the actions of one of its graduate students and its own failure to act against him. Tariq Khan, a PhD student at the university, was videotaped at a rally and then going bananas after spotting members of a conservative group called Turning Point USA. Khan was later arrested but the question is how the University of Illinois will respond to yet another assault over the exercise of free speech. The university can clearly review Khan’s conduct on the videotape and judge whether it meets the standards of the university for faculty and students alike.
Khan is shown shouting such things as “F**k Donald Trump” and “F**k you guys.” Turning Point coordinator Joel Valdez yells at Khan and asks Don’t you have kids to look after?” Khan then construes the comment as a threat. He rushes toward the students and demands repeatedly “Are you threatening my kids?” Even though Valdez denies any threat, Khan continues to claim a threat and confronts the cameraman: “You want to threaten my kids, too?” Khan becomes violent in taking a swing at a student and grabbing a cellphone. Khan was later issued a summons to appear in court “for criminal damage to property.”The concern is that universities seem to have a high tolerance for attacks on conservatives. We have previously discussed the controversy surrounding the confrontation of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young with pro-life advocates on campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara remains. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. She was convicted and sentenced for the crime. Despite the shocking conduct of Miller-Young and the clear violation of the most fundamental values for all academics in guaranteeing free speech and associational rights, the faculty overwhelmingly supported Miller-Young and the university decided not to impose any meaningful discipline. To make matter worse, Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, not only issued a statement that seemed to blame the victims but faculty defended Miller-Young’s conduct. Faculty and student defenders attacked the pro-life advocates and one even referred to them as “terrorists” who did not deserve free speech. Miller-Young should have been fired but was instead lionized by faculty and students.
Khan is an instructor at Illinois and not just some graduate student. He is listed as being with several departments, including African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Latina/Latino Studies.
The question is how Illinois will respond to an assault by an instructor on students exercising their free speech. It is analogous to the recent controversy at the University of California (Riverside) where another assault resulted in criminal charges but no substantive discipline from the university.