College Presidents Declare There Is No Protection For “Disingenuous Misrepresentation Of Free Speech.”

Freedom_of_SpeechI previously praised the position of my alma mater, The University of Chicago, in refusing to limit free speech with the creation of safe spaces and speech codes. Indeed, the courageous position of UChicago stood in sharp contrast to the troubling position of my other alma mater, Northwestern University (which has only grown more hostile to both free speech and academic freedom).   Now, Northwest Vista College president Ric Baser has declared himself squarely on the speech regulation side of academia with a chilling rejection of a broad array of speech as hate speech, including words that “spread” or “provoke” or “create” “animosity and hostility.”  Baser’s San Antonio Express-News op-ed  titled “Hate speech does not equal free speech shows not only a disturbing lack of understanding of constitutionally protected speech but an intolerance for the speech of those with which he disagrees.  Baser’s disturbing comments are part of a letter signed with 12 other members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, a group that he heads as president, which include the presidents of other colleges and universities.

While courts have struggled to define the narrow exceptions for free speech, Baser and his colleagues advances a sweeping and reckless “distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech.”  He seems to relish in the new found freedom to limit the freedom of others:  “We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities. Inappropriate messages, such as banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.”

In the name of promoting “cultural understanding,” they declare that they will not tolerate “hate speech or activity disguised as free speech.”

We have been discussing how faculty around the country are supporting the abandonment of free speech principles to bar speakers and speech with which they disagree. The most extreme form of this rejection of classical liberal values is the antifa movement.  We have seen faculty physically attack speakers or destroy messages that they oppose.  We have also seen faculty physically attacked and intimidated.  In some of these incidents, other faculty have supported students in shutting down speakers or fellow academics (here and here).

Baser’s disturbing comments are part of a letter signed with 12 other presidents and other leaders. Here are the other signatories which notably include Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, President Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Dr. Taylor Eighmy, President University of Texas at San Antonio. It also includes San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg:

 

Dr. Ric N. Baser, President
Higher Education Council of San Antonio
Northwest Vista College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Bruce Leslie, Chancellor
Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Veronica R. Garcia, President
Northeast Lakeview College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Scott Woodward
VP for Academic Affairs and Dean
Oblate School of Theology

Dr. Diane Melby, President
Our Lady of the Lake University

Dr. Mike Flores, President
Palo Alto College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Robert Vela, President
San Antonio College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Adena Loston, President
St. Philip’s College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, President
Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Dr. Taylor Eighmy, President
University of Texas at San Antonio

Dr. Jim Antenen, Executive Director/Dean
Wayland Baptist University – San Antonio

Marise McDermott, President and CEO
Witte Museum

Dr. Danny Anderson, President
Trinity University

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

These leaders have declared that the First Amendment does not protect speech that is deemed (presumably by themselves or their appointees) to “provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility.”  Imagine how broad that standard would be as faculty and students bar all speech that can be characterized as provoking animosity in others.  What concerns me most is the effort to make speech codes and regulations mainstream.  While once the view of a minority of faculty calling to speech controls, it is now the position of college and university presidents.

In my view, enforcing this ambiguous and unconstitutional standard should disqualify these signatories as heads of institutions of higher education.  As for Nirenberg, his municipal counsel may want to sit down with him for a quick refresher on free speech.  I hold no brief for those espousing insensitive or racially provocative speech. However, these standards place our schools and our society on the a slippery slope of speech regulation.  Faculty and students are increasingly claiming the right to prevent other students from participating in classes or events — as with the recent protests against James Comey at Howard University.  The students interrupted a lecture and were reportedly screaming at other students who actually wanted to learn.  I have taken a harsh line on such disruptions of classrooms like a recent incident at Northwestern University.  This violates a core defining values of our academic institutions and such students should be suspended for such conduct.  There is a difference between voicing your views and preventing others from speaking, particularly inside of a classroom. When you claim the right to prevent others from hearing opposing views or speakers, you are at odds with the academic mission of these universities.

Here is the full letter:

American colleges and universities have always embraced diverse points of view, leading to a multitude of new discoveries and cultural understanding. Higher education is a phenomenal place for minds to be challenged, to inquire, explore, discover and question the status quo.

But from time to time, American colleges and universities witness hate speech or activity disguised as free speech. Such has been the case in recent weeks at several colleges and universities in San Antonio and throughout Texas.

As members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, we — the presidents of colleges and universities throughout this community, and supporters — feel it is important to speak out and make a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech. We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities. Inappropriate messages, such as banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.

Teaching, research and critical thinking are the founding pillars of higher education. Each and every day, we witness incredible learning opportunities for our students, faculty, staff and community members.

San Antonio’s colleges and universities are stronger and more diverse than ever. During the upcoming Tricentennial, many events, activities and symposiums are being planned at our colleges to honor the city’s multicultural heritage, as well as current and future residents. San Antonio colleges and universities have played an enormous part in the city’s history. We are proud to have been a part of this great accomplishment and will further ensure that it continues to be our focus in the next 300 years.

Please join us in celebrating the power of higher education in the lives of San Antonio residents!

 

110 thoughts on “College Presidents Declare There Is No Protection For “Disingenuous Misrepresentation Of Free Speech.””

  1. “It’s fine to criticize a kludgy attempt to rope off fighting words, if that needs doing, you should state where alternatively the line should be drawn.”

    It is up to the courts to make that distinction where the different sides of an issue have equality under the law. That is not what is happening on the college campus where equality under the law is denied to conservatives.

    I can provide numerous examples of conservatives and even some Liberals that have been denied freedom of speech either by being prevented from speaking or having their rights to free speech reduced.

    I’ll give a Liberal example, Alan Dershowitz at I believe UCLA that probably will end up in court.

    1. I’ll bet more than a few federal judges read this blog. You have an opportunity to put forth your ideas about how far toleration should be extended for ill-willed, deceitful, hate-inciting, violence fomenting, anonymous speech (and combinations thereof). Standards of constructive discourse including time and place restrictions are allowed by the Constitution.

      The challenge is to come at these standards in a non-partisan manner, rather than starting from the assertion that liberals are trying to stifle conservative opinion on our college campuses. That may be the case presently, but a time may well come when the shoe is on the other foot. Why not endeavor to flesh out a contemporary interpretation of “fighting words” and “incitement” in the age of social media? This is much more productive (and engaging intellectually) than merely criticizing attempts to defend norms of civility as unconstitutional excursions. I expect someone challenging my thinking to make a counter-proposal: Where is the line to be drawn, if not where Ric Baser is drawing it?

      1. It’s really not as difficult as you make it, pbinca. When a conservative comes to campus to speak and Antifa and/ or BLM threaten violence to shut them down let them protest peacefully in a contained visible area and arrest them when they start burning buildings down or otherwise threaten violence. Do the same no matter what group is speaking. The problem is not figuring out the law rather it has to do with administrations that are unwilling to enforce the law.

  2. Comparing the “Civility Rule” JT wrote for this blog site with the Baser Rule, I don’t see much difference. JT’s is more well written. Both come from an underlying commitment to keeping public discourse civil and respectful.

    I’d be careful, JT. As blog manager, you hold the power to define civility and defend it by deleting posts that go over your line. I don’t find that policy onerous, and it’s one reason why I value Res Ipsa.

    You seem a bit eager to criticize a University President for exercising somewhat weaker powers of censorship…..Mr. Baser is merely trying to keep the discourse civil on his campus. And, his rule says that the speaker must INTEND to disparage, rile up, alienate. That is, it is not enough for the listener to infer such intentions. That is the same distinction used to isolate the impact of the “fighting words” doctrine.
    That way of thinking, in my mind, shows due attention to the nuances of free speech. It deserves some applause from free speech advocates.

  3. I am betting that the overwhelming majority, if not all, of these twerps are Democrats and voted for either Hillary or Bernie. I bet there is not of them who voted for Trump.

    Which begs the question, why then does any sane, decent white person person stay in the Democratic Party, and/or vote for Democrats??? Because if you do, then this is what you support.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky, they are delusional or they are naive unwitting supporters of committed leftists that are intent on destroying this nation.

      A lot of these movements are supported by our enemies that wish to weaken or destroy America. This is known as Active Measures which include propaganda disinformation and covert operations.

      Think why does the NYTimes publish the insert called China Watch? Certainly, not because people are reading it rather because they pay millions for it and that indirectly influences what is published by the NYTimes. Why are journalists thrown out of countries that are despotic? Because in that fashion they can influence what the remaining journalists say about the nations they are reporting on. Take it back to years past. The Black Panthers were financially supported by Russian operatives. That apparently came to light when Yeltsin was in power and due to infighting he saw to it that certain information on the communist party was released to demonstrate crimes of the communist party. Andropov’s name is linked to the money sent to the Black Panthers.

      I am not trying to say that ideas of the left are necessarily wrong (even though I disagree with most) rather other countries wish to accentuate our population’s discord for their own benefit.

        1. How do I get the transcript Squeeky? Thanks.

          I know his name and see he is talking about active measures and mentions the “soft heads” of students over multiple generations. We can see the lack of thinking ability in a lot of the bloggers here that are totally unprepared to debate politics. I’ll bet, however, many of the older ones are better at golf where they can actually assess the lie of the land.

          1. Here is a link to the full interview with Bezmenov. You can find the stuff from the video above in Part three, about half way down. Enjoy! The whole interview is worth reading, downloading and saving:

            http://uselessdissident.blogspot.com/2008/11/interview-with-yuri-bezmenov.html

            Here is a fun excerpt:

            Bezmenov: No. They serve [a] purpose only at the stage of destabilization of a nation. For example, your leftists in [the] United States: all these professors and all these beautiful civil rights defenders. They are instrumental in the process of the subversion only to destabilize a nation. When their job is completed, they are not needed any more. They know too much. Some of them, when they get disillusioned, when they see that Marxist-Leninists come to power—obviously they get offended—they think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot.

            But they may turn into the most bitter enemies of Marxist-Leninists when they come to power. And that’s what happened in Nicaragua. You remember most of these former Marxist-Leninists were either put [in] prison, or one of them split and now he is working against [the] Sandinistas. It happened in Grenada, when Maurice Bishop was—he was already a Marxist—he was executed by a new Marxist, who was more Marxist than this Marxist.

            [The] same happened in Afghanistan, when first there was [Nur Mohammad] Taraki, he was killed by [Hafizullah] Amin, [and] then Amin was killed by Babrak Karmal with the help of [the] KGB. [The] same happened in Bangladesh when [Sheikh] Mujibur Rahman, [a] very pro-Soviet leftist, was assassinated by his own Marxist-Leninist military comrades. It’s the same pattern everywhere. The moment they serve their purpose, all these useful idiots [will] either be executed entirely (or the idealistically-minded Marxist) or exiled, or put in prisons like in Cuba. Many former Marxists are in Cuba—I mean in prison.

            So most of the Indians who were cooperating with the Soviets, especially with our Department of Information of the USSR embassy, were listed for execution. And when I discovered that fact, of course I was sick: I was mentally and physically sick. I thought that I [was] going to explode one day during the briefing of the Ambassador’s office; I would stand up and say something [like,] ‘We are basically a bunch of murderers. That’s what we are. It has nothing to do with ‘friendship and understanding between the nation[s]’ and blah-blah-blah. We are murderers! We behave as [a] bunch of thugs in a country which is hospitable to us, a country with ancient traditions.’

            But I did not defect. I tried to get the message across, [but] to my horror, nobody wanted even to listen, least of all to believe what I had to say. And I tried all kind[s] of tricks. I would leak information through letters or lost documents or something like that, and still I got no message. The message was not published even in the conservative mass media of India.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

            1. Thank you so much Squeeky I will be reading that article as soon as I have a chance. “USELESS DISSIDENT
              TO BE CALLED MCCARTHYIST AND FASCIST AND PARANOID” Who is that useless dissident? I know and met some of the people and sites listed on the side so I know I like whoever this Dissident is.

              You seem to have a wide span of knowledge. As far as McCarthy, I was just informed that the number of spies that were in the State Department at the time was 514. That number seems to go up every time I look. I’m not saying McCarthy was a nice person, but he was right. The ‘have you no shame’ statement made by the opposing Senator whose name I forget misses the entire point as that statement should have pertained to the Senator whose name I forget. That Senator was a jerk (at least pertaining to the ‘have no shame’).

        2. This interview was in the 80’s and was spot on.

          In 2016, the American people hired a tough builder from Queens, an outsider to politics, who would aggressively and ruthlessly expose the swamp of corruption in this country. Americans long ago began considering the devastation injected into this country by the poisonous leftist ideology. They needed someone with some spine and some gonads to lead the way. Just one year into his administration every leftist platform is in a state of collapse. Today, Americans are in no mood for the demands of the ‘useful idiots’. It may have taken us a while – but their destructive run is being methodically dismantled – for now.

      1. Allan – there was a fair amount of Communist money and activity in the Civil Rights movement. Thurgood Marshall spent a fair amount of time trying to weed Communists out of the NAACP. He was fairly successful and had a deal going with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in return.

        1. That is true, but I think the basic objective is to create discord and then use that discord so our enemies will support any movement whether it be a white supremacist movement or BLM. However, it appears they are most invested in the leftist movements in the US.

          Psychological disarmament is a predecessor to physical disarmament. Think why the Soviet Union wanted Austria to become a neutral nation? Because they probably wished that Germany be reunited as a neutral nation and not in NATO. Think warfare against the culture to break down society. Think LIberation Theology to break down churches. Think in terms of being libertine to break down families. This happened in the Soviet Union followed by sexual puritanism. The leader of the ‘Calexit’ campaign Louis Marinelli withdrew his ballot petition and states he will permanently settle in Russia.

          1. Allan, Austria is sick and tired of the EU dictating to them how many refugees to take in. That’s why they closed their border with Italy earlier this year.

          2. Allan re “Think in terms of being libertine to break down families.”

            We don’t need any outside influences to encourage libertines – some of our best schools are doing just that — personally I think what transpires between consenting adults is their business, but I think it’s over the top to offer such workshops on campus…

            “Several “Sex Week” campus events at various high-profile colleges over the years have also included workshops on the sexual subculture, which can include ropes, whips, blindfolds, flogging, master-servant role play and much more.

            For example, the University of Chicago’s annual sex week observance typically includes a BDSM workshop. In 2014, a presentation there dubbed “Taste of Kink” gave students an opportunity to explore “sensations that can be generated by floggers, rope, electricity and more.” Likewise, in 2016, the university hosted a “sexual pain” workshop and BDSM tutorials. And earlier this year it hosted “Intro to rope bondage.”

            “Princeton latest Ivy League school to host BDSM tutorials”

            https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/40044/

            1. “We don’t need any outside influences to encourage libertines – some of our best schools are doing just that”

              Autumn, one of the best ways to encourage cultural disintegration of another country is to support things that exist and accentuate them to promote discord. A lot of Active Measures that are taken by foreign governments utilize ideas that already exist here and they expand on them. That makes their attempts insidious.

              1. Allan, hmmm, re: “one of the best ways to encourage cultural disintegration of another country is to support things that exist and accentuate them to promote discord” You may be right to some degree however I see it more as the domestic globalist elites being responsible – they hold no allegiance to this country.

                1. Understand Autumn that what you say is in part correct, but recognize that many global elites have significant financial ties to other nations and those nations can exert pressure on them to benefit both those other nations and the global elite at the expense of ordinary American citizens. This is very true of China who donates huge amounts of money to some of our universities and enrolls a lot of students as well at full tuition. That can give them a voice in some publications or activities at the university. I heard of one Stanford Ph.D. student denied a doctorate because China wasn’t happy with what he had written. The same is true in Hollywood. AS an example the Chinese own AMC and half of Landmark theaters so they can exert influence on Hollywood. We already know that Facebook rules change in China as do the rules for many countries.

                  Influence peddling always exists and that is why there are so many lobbyists in Washington. Sometimes the lobbying is solely for an American company and sometimes the company is lobbying because of joint interests that involve a foreign nation.

                  1. Allan – it is true that American movies are being modified for Chinese audiences, but the audiences are not taking it very well. They are well versed in American films and know what doesn’t belong. 🙂

                    1. What can easily happen and we have seen it on some of the TV shows is that that they take the stories from real life, but change the ethnicity of the bad guys. I think one movie was supposed to have bad Chinese and they converted them to North Koreans. Politics is very much an in thing in Hollywood.

    2. They keep voting Democrat because they pay no attention to the changes of that party in the last 30 years. Also, they have never been curious about the Republican Party and conservatives. Read “The Closing of the American Mind” to understand how long this has been going on. Schools, where curiousity should be encouraged, spout views to be expected. I know so many people can’t stand President Trump, but his election has put the rise of Liberalism on hold. At least for four years. As results become more obvious those lazy voters might start learning instead of being Lemmings.

      1. From your mouth to God’s ears! The Democrats are going to have a hard time spinning if the economy is speeding along at 4% or so, and wages are going up. Sooo, they will push the racissst! stuff, and the war on women stuff.

        What the tax cut stuff needed was an upfront payment to taxpayers, $500 or so at least, and a bump for seniors on Social Security. One of my Mom’s friends who gets about $1400 a month, got a whole $3.00 per month raise after the increase in Medicare. That’s not right. I know she has cats and dang, canned cat food is up 6 cents a can. That means one can a day eats up $1.80 of the increase. They need to bump those people on the lower levels of Social Security, because they are losing ground.

        Plus, those people in nursing homes who get like $35 a month spending money and it hasn’t gone up in forever. Old people are a great place for a stimulus without running the risks of moral hazards.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. You are correct about how completely demeaning the system can be for elderly Medicaid patients in nursing facilities. A person I know formerly received a government pension and social security retirement benefits. Now, they are in a nursing facility and receiving Medicaid. The person is only allowed about $63 per month after the state effectively takes everything away. Of course, the state does permit an allowance to pay for her to pay her Medicaid Advantage insurance and dental plan. (Since of course that effectively indemnifies the state from having to cover her medical costs had she been without insurance. Despite the fact her private insurance pays most of her medical costs, the state impoverishes her.) Though the U.N. defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than a dollar per day. I suppose they consider her fortunate to be allowed double that at two.

          I fully recognize the enormous costs associated with the elderly and infirm. But is it too much to ask to let them have just a little spending money and not have to fill out so much paperwork just to receive personal care items?

          1. I could not agree more. In Louisiana, the amount is $38 per month for personal needs. You get more if you are a veteran. That won’t pay for squat. If the resident has a pet, which some nursing homes permit, they can’t afford to feed it. It doesn’t even pay for a coke and a bag of chips every day.

            To me, this is disgusting. For heaven’s sake, at least give the resident $100 a month, so they can have a few reminders of life, like a Starbucks coffee once in a while, or maybe a Netflix subscription. Maybe a magazine subscription. Maybe even a pizza delivery once a month, But $38 a month??? Technically, they have to pay for their hair cuts, their personal hygiene supplies, and often to rent a TV for their room.

            What is really stupid, is that if you give money to poor people, they don’t keep it. It floats right back out to the economy. If there is no moral hazard, there is nothing but increased demand. Even with food stamps, when they are used properly, the poor people don’t get the money— the grocery stores, and farmers, and truck drivers, and stockers, and food manufacturers get the money.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

            1. Squeeky, I think a big problem is that too many decisions are being made in Washington. Many decisions should be pushed onto the states including a lot of the funding.

          2. Darren Smith – if they are able-bodied, they are taken to Walmart to get their personal needs taken care of. My brother was in that situation for several years and they had a monthly bus that would take about 20 for a shopping trip. About every 3 months they would do a casino run, too. 😉 So, they were saving up some money.

        2. “What the tax cut stuff needed was an upfront payment to taxpayers, $500 or so at least, and a bump for seniors on Social Security. ”

          The problem being faced is the deficit and then the individual whims of each representative. The important thing is to move the economy and get to that 4% or more so that the debt starts to recede. The President said it right in his speech. The nation’s strength first depends on its economy. If we continued with the Obama method faith would have been lost on our economy and interest rates on those trillions of dollars would have skyrocketed while the economy slowly deteriorated. The interest payments would have threatened the entitlement programs or our ability to defend ourselves. Already we had to cannibalize our navy in order to send three carriers towards North Korea. Obama seriously damaged our military’s ability.

          If the economy takes off then Trump can do a Reagan with further changes to the tax code and perhaps alter entitlements so that those in most need can have a bit more.

  4. Turley writes:”In my view, enforcing this ambiguous and unconstitutional standard should disqualify these signatories as heads of institutions of higher education. ”

    This makes sense. I wonder if anyone disagrees.

    1. I do. I am a staunch defender of the “fighting words” exemption to freedom of speech. Do you want to live in a country where death threats become a routine, acceptable form of political argumentation? We have limits which anarchists and malcontents will gladly walk over if they are not defended.

      If you parse Mr. Baser’s policy, a designation of hate speech requires that the speaker INTENDS to offend, alienate, and rile up hateful passions. That is a very high bar to prove, and one high enough to stop the offended listener from being the one to define an infraction. We should support that important distinction.
      Otherwise, it signals to the strident militants that “anything goes”, including fomenting class warfare, or race warfare, or religious warfare.

      It’s fine to criticize a kludgy attempt to rope off fighting words, if that needs doing, you should state where alternatively the line should be drawn.

      1. Gah, such a profusion of confused ideas, it’s hard to tell where to begin.

        First, this has nothing to do with the “Fighting Words” doctrine. The Fighting Words doctrine requires insult directed in person at a particular individual, such as are likely to bring about an immediate breach of the peace. To “provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility” is a much broader set of criteria.

        Second, death threats would fall under a completely different exception, the “True Threat” exception, provided they are actually intended as threats and a reasonable person would interpret them as such.

        If you parse Mr. Baser’s policy, a designation of hate speech requires that the speaker INTENDS to offend, alienate, and rile up hateful passions.

        That’s not one of the exceptions to the 1st Amendment, thankfully. Imagine if we could make a criminal of you any time you intended to offend – or even alienate – anybody else, including Donald Trump, or Neo-Nazis. Utter madness.

        You could say that, the 1st Amendment protecting what it does, we’ve had people “fomenting” class warfare, race warfare, and religious warfare for generations. So what? Where are all these wars we’ve apparently been fomenting?

      2. “It’s fine to criticize a kludgy attempt to rope off fighting words, if that needs doing, you should state where alternatively the line should be drawn.”

        That is up to the courts to decide, but it has to be based upon equality under the law. Presently freedom of speech on the college campus is treated differently for conservatives than it is for Liberals. I can give numerous examples. I can even use the very Liberal Alan Dershowitz as an example because despite his Liberality and his renown for being a Constitutional expert Liberals didn’t want to hear what he had to say on freedom of speech. His speech was restricted at one of UCLA’s campuses and I believe that restriction is leading to a court case.

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