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. How did they get so many incompetent administrators in one county at the same time??? What is really going on here? A take over of education by incompetents? It is clear FIRE will be setting up an office in San Antonio just to handle these cases.

  2. Bloomberg shone a light when it reported, “Fox Reporter ‘Blocked from Covering Trump Ties to Russia’ “.

    1. I guess she is embellishing her gender discrimination suit. The reporter wasn’t based in Russia and wanted to be sent there so she really had nothing to say that contained tangible proof instead of her opinion. I think she said she would pay her own way so that she could investigate in Russia and report from there. I think that is a great idea. If she comes back with valid information pointing in either direction I will applaud her.

      Unfortunately, she is probably a snowflake and instead of using her own means she will probably climb on the bandwagon of getting rich quick through suing based on gender.

      1. Instead of getting $, the Trump way? Dubious foundations, alleged fraudulent instruction in real estate, leaving your creditors holding the bag, questionable tax filings,…?

        1. We discussed bankruptcy before and you ran out of ideas before you even realized the full concept of bankruptcy. Without any new additions to your knowledge of the subject, you have come around 360 degrees. That is snowflake territory so perhaps wisdom (and knowledge in your case) doesn’t always occur with age.

          1. Allen, Are there 6 steps to every snowflake going 360 with no two six step sets being the same?

            1. An example of the reason why listeners of right wing talk radio and Fox are seen as conformist, non-thinkers- they are told that people being called “snowflakes” bothers them so (summoning all of their imagination and vocabulary), the right wing commenters, in lock step, banter the word about.

              1. Linda – the question was about actual snowflakes, you twit. The theory is that no two snowflakes are alike and snowflakes are different within their sets. However, no one(s) has ever examined enough snowflakes to prove or disprove this theory. We used to believe that no two fingerprints were alike until a bombing in Europe and the fingerprints came back to somebody in the U.S. 3 different examiners checked the prints and said they were his. However, it turned out, there was someone else in Europe who had the same fingerprints. And they eventually arrested him, although they put the American through hell as an accused terrorist.

              2. Linda, you don’t know what you are talking about. You cannot stay on one topic. What I said above was:

                “We discussed bankruptcy before and you ran out of ideas before you even realized the full concept of bankruptcy. Without any new additions to your knowledge of the subject, you have come around 360 degrees. That is snowflake territory so perhaps wisdom (and knowledge in your case) doesn’t always occur with age.”

                One definition of a snowflake is (urban dictionary): “A term used to describe extremist liberals that get offended by every statement and/or belief that doesn’t exactly match their own.”

                1. One feature of bankruptcy that Trump learned- American banks won’t continue to lend money to a specific businessman, after he has multiple bankruptcies.

                  1. It depends. How do you know Chase or another bank wouldn’t lend him money? It is more a matter of terms rather than a yes or no as to wishing to loan money. You probably believe a bank wouldn’t lend him money because you heard he borrowed some money from outside the US. That shows how little you know about these things.

  3. Dr. Dichead Basterd is a doctor of dork.

    Put this up on campus kids:

    “He’s a dork!
    He’s a dlork1
    He’s a dork all the way!
    From his first cigarette…
    to his last dying day.”

    Then kids do this:
    Put up Mug Shots in the bathrooms. Put a Mug Shot sign over the photos. Then post alll the photos of the dork professors who signed up in the censorship and put an offense under their photos. Like: Convicted of having sex with a mouse. etc

    1. Oh, and since you now live in Nazi Germany you can put things on signs in German. Heil Dickhead!

  4. Inappropriate messages…and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech.

    Oh the irony. Let’s start with their letter. What’s next? A slogan that reads: Punch violence in the face? It would be great to see an op-ed signed by folks such as JT published nation-wide. Or else:

    The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Abraham Lincoln

  5. I wish Mr. Turley would do more than just post these idiotic college practices. He has a voice and he needs to start using it on these campuses. Posting here is only preaching to the choir.

    1. Turley’s not “preaching to the choir” at his public invited blog. There are many readers who understand that when people like the DeVos’ and Koch’s pay for speakers on campuses, they are attempting to undermine schools created as an alternative to expensive, legacy enrollment institutions.
      The U.S. oligarchy wants colonialism in the U.S. instead of a democracy and a meritocracy.
      The Red Cross does not host speakers who promote ignoring people in disasters, because the organization’s mission is the opposite. White supremacists like Spencer should be prevented from spewing their vile, particularly where it is corrosive to a mission of inclusion.

        1. Fromm
          Your choir (1) Russian interests attempting to de-stabilize the U.S. (2) those who have such a profound hatred for Black people that they are willing to destroy American democracy (3) those who oppose meritocracy and instead promote U.S. leeches, like those on Wall Street who drag down GDP by 2%,
          (4) those whose goal is a fantasized nation of White, male privilege and many of whom share the life choices of Rush Limbaugh, Bannon and, his 3rd ex-wife, Corey Lewindowsky, and Trump and his inner circle of attractive women (5) Libertarian liars who propagandize, falsely describing the U.S. as a free market, while furthering the Koch, Gates, Walton economic monopoly and political oligarchy (6) those who loathe labor in the same way that slave owners hate slaves, …

            1. No, I think she is simply rephrasing Alphaville’s lyrics, from the Jonny Gerts band video above:

              “Forever Young” is an archetype of the 1980’s synth-forward “new wave” or synth-pop music. The lyrics are an embodiment of the fear of nuclear war and were influenced heavily by the political climate of the early 1980’s when it was written. Ronald Reagan was president of the US and the Cold War was at its height. After the death of the long-time Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, world fears turned to the possibility that the US President Reagan would trigger a nuclear holocaust.

              Looming over the happy optimistic C-G-Am-F chord progression is a fear of lost innocence and cataclysmic war. The song’s lyrics serve as an ironic double entendre that espouses the virtue of youth on one hand while sarcastically condemning it on the other. Asking “who wants to live forever?” under the constant threat of nuclear war or worse: after nuclear fallout has ravaged the planet.


              I didn’t want to post all the lyrics here since the Jonny Gerts provided them in such an inspired, enthusiastic, and dramatic performance — – sooo you can read them at the link.

              Squeeky Fromm
              Girl Reporter

        1. Jim22, all I can say is that there are a good number of people that are proud fascists willing to end freedom of speech at the drop of a hat as long as their own freedom of speech is not impaired.

    2. That’s not true. Lots of these stories do not receive much media attenion–especially since Nat Hentoff died–or receive superficial treatment. This isn’t preaching to the choir, it’s informing the choir Although in this particular case it isn’t a college behaving stupid it’s an individual.

      1. My “preaching to the choir” comment” was meant to be about all of us (except Linda, who seems to have an all mighty knowledge of who should be allowed to speak) who believe in true freedom of speech. I would love to see Turley take on these administrators or groups. Telling us will not protect our rights.

        1. Turley hasn’t written about Trump’s elimination of net neutrality- makes one wonder if speech and censorship that the richest 0.1% pay for, is sacrosanct.

          1. Turley works for da Fox News. Da Murdoch media empire will benefit. Do you need to know more? If he could find a way to blame da Clintons for Trump’s appointees actions, he would write da blog post.

              1. Linda – JT appears on a lot of network shows, he does not “work” for any of them. He is a fully employed faculty member and runs this blog. When would he have time to work for them? He is not Superman.

          2. Net neutrality is not censorship, it is about the free market, which from how your other posts read, I would assume you would want the govt. to control that too.

            To keep your analogy spin going. I drive only large V-8 powered cars. I do not feel that I should have to pay more in gas consumption than the tree hugging hybrid drivers. Why should gas companies get to charge me more because I use more? So unfair….

  6. “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.”

    The activities “are” being planned in the future, during the upcoming tricentennial? Which is the only tricentennial there is, and therefore capitalized. It appears that they also will-be-are planning current and future residents, but it isn’t clear if they mean “current and future” relative to now, or relative to the tricentennial.

    I’m giving this essay a C-, but I’ll raise it to a C if they halve the number of series and use Oxford commas in the rest.

  7. Who gets to decide what’s a ” Disengenious Misrepresentation of Free Speech”?

  8. Maybe they can ban curtain words only, like Trump wants from the CDC or government agencies.

    1. Another fake newz story by the Wah Compost

      “U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on Sunday addressed a report that President Donald Trump’s administration had banned the CDC from using seven words or phrases in next year’s budget documents.

      PBS reports: CDC director says there are ‘no banned words’ at the agency

      “The terms are “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “evidence-based” and “science-based,” according to a story first reported on Friday in The Washington Post.

      But Fitzgerald said in a series of tweets on Sunday said there are “no banned words,” while emphasizing the agency’s commitment to data-driven science. ”

      1. Just because Fitzgerald is now down playing it does not mean it the report was fake. Somebody leaked it to the WAPO.

  9. I like the letter. It’s a damning admission by a bunch of administrators from second rate institutions, plus how else can you get a list of anti-American academics complete with names and addresses providing proof of their treachery against everything they are suppose to uphold?

  10. The United States will have European/Canadian style hate speech laws in another 25 years.

    And the Jonathan Turleys of the world will be called a “nazi” for merely supporting a traditional interpretation of the 1st Amendment.

  11. Well, I suppose this is an example of why college and university administrators earn the big bucks. But they should have had a lawyer vet their mini-essay.

  12. In the last line of their manifesto:

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

    Therein lies the problem: “The power of higher education in the lives…” These academics seek through their political and legal devices to impose upon the lives of others. That is at the heart as to why we have a bill of rights and various state constitutions to guarantee liberty: Because government and powerful actors seek to impose their will upon others. The signatories of this disgrace to liberty will never recognize the irony of their pontifications.

    1. The choice of “power” was unfortunate, as Darren’s misinterpretation demonstrates. They certainly did not mean it in the sense of “forces”, but rather along the lines of “ability to improve”. Who doubts the latter?

      1. Actually the “force” as you mentioned is alive in what they dictate. They have declared rather strongly that what they view as being hateful or what causes even animosity has no place at the institution. That is a very broad brush they paint with as it is they who are the ones to make the judgment. They will remove speech which administrators or agent students insist is nonconforming. It is also a form known as Prior Restraint.

        The other element of the force is that they use their official position to remove speech from the campus. They have the power to accomplish this, their utilization of this constitutes a force.

        Another element of prior restraint is the requirement of speech to be either licensed or pre-approved before it is exercised by an individual. I would not put it past these academic administrators to want such a license requirement, whether it be de facto or de jure.

        1. Having to put up with academic administrators, still, I disagree, based on the ones that I have dealt with.

          Maybe they are different in San Antonio, Texas.

          1. Stated otherwise, I think you credit them with more competence than they possess.

  13. “embraced diverse points of view, leading to a multitude of new discoveries and cultural understanding.” Only when they’re on the right side of history. “A phenomenal place for minds to be challenged, to inquire, explore, discover and question the status quo.” Only when these minds can be led to the proper conclusion. These people are unfit for their work, better suited to a Cultural Revolution than educating the next generation. I can’t help but laugh when I realize how seriously Ric Baser and his colleagues take themselves. The kind of attention they’re giving to provocateurs like Milo and Richard Spencer only validates their words; it only encourages more of the same, which will be met with greater force from indignant utopians.

  14. The first amendment is a prohibition to laws the federal congress may constitutionally pass.

    Says nothing about what colleges and universities might or might not do.

    Got that, Turley?

    1. You must have missed the part where Turley discusses the mission of the university.

      Surely, if the academics who signed have a right to advocate limiting expression on college campuses then other academics, including Turley have a right to advocate for a broad mission of the university to ensure discussion of all points of view.

      Further, some of the signers are associated with state institutions – which clearly have an obligation to preserve free speech.

      Got that, Benson?

      1. State supported colleges and universities are governed by state law, not the US constitution.

        Got it, bigfatmike?

        1. David Benson,
          You are quite mistaken.

          “The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land.[1] It provides that state courts are bound by the supreme law; in case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be applied. Even state constitutions are subordinate to federal law.[2]”

    2. You are mistaken Mr. Benson

      Gitlow v. New York held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Due Process Clause” incorporated the First Amendment and thus is applicable to the states.

      Furthermore, each state has a free speech analog in their respective state constitutions. Many states–Washington being one–have case law where the Courts held that the state constitution provides greater constitutional protections than that provided in the U.S. Constitution.

      Since many of these referenced institutions are state entities such as municipal corporations chartered under state laws, they are state actors and subject to the restraints of the civil rights amendments.

        1. Mr. Benson

          I follow your posts regularly on this blog and have to ask, “why are you so anti free speech?” You seem to relish such speech restrictive laws. Own up to it!

    3. Detecting “disingenuous misinterpretation” implies being able to read people’s thoughts. Technology is not that far advanced (yet), but you knew that, Benson.

    4. Good job reading the whole piece, that is addressed.

      Until someone has the cojones to strip these people of their positions or funding, nothing is going to change. Alas, we do not make those decisions. All we can do is boycott the schools and tell them in no incertain terms how we feel, that would be a great place to start.

  15. I think what is happening at universities today is frightening. One of your posts months ago was about Lauraute Education and the closing of Santa Fe University. Many of those kids transferred to McNally Smith in MN. That was a well established Music School. Last Friday everyone was told December 20th they too were closing. They simply ran out of money. Some of the kids have twice in one year attended a college that closed. This too is a disgrace.

  16. Wow! I’d say much more but it might be deemed to “provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility.”

    Are there no space spaces for sane people?

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