We recently discussed the move by Point Park University to include “misgendering, pronoun misuse, and deadnaming” as forms of discrimination subject to discipline at the school. Now students are seeking the removal of Logan Dubil, an undergraduate student who appeared in media criticizing the policy. The Change.org petition has hundreds of signing students and is the latest example of a rising generation of censors emerging from our campuses. Many today focus more on silencing others than responding to their opposing viewpoints.
The petition states “We need to remove Logan Dubil from campus as well as others like him who refuse to respect other people pronouns.”
The poster called “Max” wrote:
“There is no possible way to be a moral correct person while also disrespecting people’s pronouns. Logan Dubil and others like him are the scum of the Earth. No one belongs on our campus who does not respect other peoples pronouns.”
Of course, anyone can post such an anonymous petition and there is no indication that the university is taking such a move seriously. Indeed, one never knows who is behind such anonymous campaigns in this age of rage. However, what does concern me is the hundreds of signatures in support of the campaign and, most importantly, the silence of the university. I could not find any comment from PPU reaffirming that it will not expel a student over his appearing in the media to express criticism of the university or such policies. Such a statement would certainly be reassuring to the school’s faculty and students who may hold opposing views on this or other subjects.
Ironically, in one of the interviews that triggered this angry backlash, Dubil expressed how he and other conservative students have been subject to regular harassment without support from the university:
A lot of conservative students on campus have reached out to me, going along with what you said, how stupid this is. This is not normal in any sense, but God forbid as student of the liberal descent wants to be respected on campus. The organizations and the university bow head over heel to make sure that they’re safe. But when it comes to conservatives on campuses, we don’t feel that same love. Freshman year I dealt with threats of violence, my door was violated. Sophomore year, I dealt with being threatened to be doxed from other students, and nothing has been done to this day.
And it is really scary how easily and how ready the school is to jump to make sure that one side is protected and on side feels safe, but the other doesn’t.
I support the right of Max to denounce the views Dubil and vice versa. It is all free speech. However, as we have seen in other recent cases, universities are often silent in defense of free speech when conservative students are harassed or sanctioned by other students. Just as it did in expressing its position on pronouns, PPU should be clear that the university stands for the protection of a diversity of viewpoints on its campus.
There is a teachable moment in all of this. While the petition will not succeed, the underlying campaign shows a rising intolerance for opposing views on our campuses. As discussed recently, sixty-six percent of students now believe that shutting down opposing speakers is an exercise of free speech.
Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new society in their own intolerant images.
The most chilling aspect of this story is how many on the left applaud such censorship. A prior poll shows roughly half of the public supporting not just corporate censorship but government censorship of anything deemed “misinformation.”
We discussed this issue recently with regard to a lawsuit against SUNY. It is also discussed in my forthcoming law review article, Jonathan Turley, Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States, 45 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (2021).