I have previously written about the toleration shown by colleges and universities in students and faculty disrupting speakers with whom they disagree. This has included protests where students have been prevented from studying as other students accuse them of privilege or racism. Administrators at schools like Dartmouth have allowed such abusive conduct to occur without disciplinary action, even apologizing to the protesters. Students at Columbia University library prevented College Republicans from speaking at a meeting while students at Northwestern prevented a class from being held. The latest example occurred last week at Georgetown where the Georgetown University College Republicans were prevented from holding an event critical of climate change theories. It is precisely the type of diversity of opinion that should be welcomed on a campus, but student protesters stopped others from hearing these views. As with the prior incidents, there is no indication of any punishment for the students in stopping the exercise of free speech on the Georgetown campus.
Notably, the article on the event by the college newspaper is titled “College Republicans’ Climate Forum Rebuttal Met With Protests.” In truth, the forum was not “met” by protesters but prevented from being held by protesters.
The students brought together experts and advocates to criticize climate change views. I have long subscribed to the science of climate change, but I still support such a forum as a vital part of our educational mission. Protesters however refused to allow others to hear opposing views, but yelling and blowing whistles. Students were removed but not disciplined. They were threatened with school discipline if they returned. They did not have to. The forum could not continue. In other words, they succeeded in defeating the free speech rights of other students. Georgetown did little beyond an institutional shrug.
There is no indication of discipline even after police had to be called.
The use of the heckler’s veto is now being used to silence those who hold opposing views on issues from abortion to climate change to contemporary politics. By not taking action, universities like Georgetown are enabling this conduct and stripping conservatives students and faculty of the benefits of not just free speech but open intellectual engagement.