It is obvious that the display is not just triggering for Rodríguez’s students given the professor’s unhinged response. It is all part of an anti-free speech movement that seeks to treat speech as harmful. Once this foundation is laid, any speech can then be curtailed or denied for the protection of others.
This is unfortunately not surprising. Years ago, most of us would have been shocked as we were by the conduct of University of Missouri communications professor Melissa Click who directed a mob against a student journalist covering a Black Lives Matter event. (Click was later hired by Gonzaga University). Since that time, we have seen a steady stream of professors joining students in shouting down, committing property damage, participating in riots, verbally attacking students, or even taking violent action in protests. Others like Fresno State University Public Health Professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher recruited students to destroy pro-life messages. At University of California- Santa Barbara, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.
As has been the case in many of these incidents, Rodríguez was supported by others at the college in violently opposing dissenting viewpoints. The group CUNY For Abortion Rights declared support for Rodríguez and said that she was “justified” in her actions. Her trashing of the display was presented after an effort to “constructive critique” the students’ exhibit. Furthermore, she is portrayed as acting only after she “correctly assessed the damage” the exhibit was doing to Hunter College’s “learning environment.”
Accordingly, trashing the display was justified because Rodríguez viewed the students as “propagating dangerous propaganda” and offering “inaccurate depictions” of abortions from “unscientific sources.”
In a chilling reminder of the use of disinformation as an excuse of censorship, the group declared that “disinformation should never be allowed to take root at our college.”
There is now a letter being signed to show the college support for Rodríguez and her trashing the display.
Ironically, Rodríguez describes her work as “depict[ing] spaces and subjects engaged in strategies of survival against erasure and subjugation.” It appears that she also specializes in erasing the views of others.
The problem is that, while this conduct may be allowed or even encouraged at private colleges, Hunter College is a public college and it is subject to the First Amendment. In this case, Rodríguez is claiming to be acting as a faculty member in protection of her students. Even if she is not viewed as acting in an official capacity, there is still the question of how the college will address the assault. Thus far, the incident has only appeared on conservative sites since attacks on pro-life centers or figures has proven to hold little interest for mainstream media. However, President Jennifer J. Raab is now faced with an adjunct professor who trashed a display, verbally assaulted students, and declared that opposing views should not be tolerated on campus.
Raab now has a choice to make in either supporting free speech by taking action against Rodríguez or confirming that the college’s commitment to free speech is a mere pretense.