We have previously discussed how universities have used security fees and concerns to effectively block conservative speakers. Dartmouth College, however, is embroiled in a bizarre such controversy after it not only pushed a speech from an in-person event to an online event, but then demanded the school’s chapter of College Republicans pay a $3,600 “security fee” for an online event. The claims made by the College are now being challenged not only by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), but also by the Hanover Police Department.
The speaker was journalist Andy Ngo, who has been assaulted by Antifa activists and others for covering violence by the left in cities like Seattle and Portland.
Dartmouth stopped the in-person event by claiming that it did so due to “concerning information” from the Hanover Police. However, FIRE reported that the police told the organization that it “did not make a recommendation to Dartmouth College regarding the January 20th event.” That is a very serious contradiction when the school scuttled a free speech event. FIRE’s Sabrina Conz said “the actual records from the police … show no recommendation for Dartmouth to cancel events — over Dartmouth’s vague statements of ‘concerning information.’”
To add salt to the wound, Dartmouth later sent the College Republicans a $3,600 bill for the online event. It is not clear how a virtual event cost actual security expenditures, but the charge (combined with the earlier cancellation of the in-person event) raise serious free speech issues.
Ngo’s appearance at Dartmouth held particular meaning given the attacks upon him by Antifa and the connection of the school to the movement. As discussed earlier, former Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray is the author of a book entitled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” and one of the chief enablers of these protesters. Bray defines antifa as “politics or an activity of social revolutionary self defense. It’s a pan-left radical politics uniting communists, socialists, anarchists and various different radical leftists together for the shared purpose of combating the far right.”
Bray speaks positively of the effort to supplant traditional views of free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase… that says I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He defines anti-fascists as “illiberal” who reject the notion that far right views deserve to “coexist” with opposing views.
Bray says that the protesters do not “see fascism or white supremacy as a view with which they disagree as a difference of opinion.” Their goal is not co-existence but “to end their politics.” Bray and other academics are liberating students from the confines of what they deem the false “allegiance to liberal democracy.” Once freed of the values of free speech and democratic values, violence becomes merely politics by other means.
When pushed, Bray stressed that antifa is only a threat to one side and one party:
“There is a certain political lens that — agree or disagree with the lens — there is an element of continuity in terms of the types of groups targeted. I don’t know of any Democratic Party events that have been ‘no platformed,’ or shut down by anti-fascists. So there is a political lens, people will quibble about what the lens is, who designs the lens, but I don’t think the slippery slope is actually, in practice, nearly as much of a concern as people imagine it would be.”
What occurred at Dartmouth with Ngo is an example of a school assisting in effectively deplatforming a conservative in terms of an in-person event. It then hit the group with a cost for a virtual event that must be paid in order to qualify for further funding.
The alleged contradiction with the police department should compel the university to conduct an inquiry and offer a public account of its actions in this controversy. One obvious solution. Have Ngo back. . . in person.