Thursday, April 20, 2017

The University of Virginia’s Fight to Protect Free Speech

According to some observers, college campuses are facing a “free speech crisis.” From author Charles Murray, who faced violent protests at Middlebury College, to Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald, who was shouted down by students at Claremont McKenna College, controversial free speech cases arise on college campuses almost weekly.

But amid the chaos, some college and university administrators are working harder than ever to protect the First Amendment. The Daily Signal traveled to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has faced its own campus protests in recent weeks, to find out how difficult—and costly—it is in today’s political environment to stand up for free speech.


University Students Vote to Make American Flag 'Optional'
Students at the University of California, Davis proved you don’t need a Bic lighter to desecrate Old Glory — you just need a majority vote.

The UC Davis Student Senate passed legislation revoking a long-standing rule that required the American flag “stand visibly” at every senate meeting.

“It shall not be compulsory for the flag of the United State (sic) of America to be displayed at the ASUCD Senate meetings,” the new legislation declares.

Ironically, the author of the anti-American bill is a student who recently became a naturalized citizen.

“The concept of the United States of America and patriotism is different for every individual,” Itmar Waksman told the CBS news affiliate in Sacramento.

Under the new rules, any senator who wants to display Old Glory must file a petition.

“It will then be at the discretion of the Senate Pro Tempore whether to approve, reject or set the decision to a vote of the Senate,” the bill reads.

Sadly, there are plenty of young people at UC Davis who share Mr. Waksman’s sick and twisted ideology. One student explained her rage against the flag in a Facebook post:

“Why do you feel that advocating for the U.S. flag that represents a history of genocide, slavery, and imperialism is more important than stuff that actually matters like I don’t know, the violence against our LGBTQ Brown and Black students, rising tuition, resources for our students without homes,” she fumed. “What a waste of time.”

A waste of time?

Try telling that to the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces who put their lives on the line every day so that perpetually offended snowflakes can spit on America.

Try telling that to our wounded warriors whose arms and legs were blown off fighting for our freedom. Without their sacrifice we would not be the land of the free or the home of the brave.

But concepts like duty and honor and courage — God and Country — are lost on many of the perpetually offended generation.

UC Davis student Michael Gofman understands those concepts. His parents fled the Soviet Union so their family could have a better life. Michael was one of the few students to oppose the flag bill.

He told Fox 40 in Sacramento that “every student on this campus owes a lot to this country whether they know it or not, and that creating a bill that takes steps to ban he flag is a slap in the face.”

And there are some patriots around campus who agree with this courageous young man. One supporter responded to those posting hateful messages about our nation.

“That flag represents the freedom you have to make such a comment,” the supporter wrote. “Try going to North Korea and expressing those kinds of opinions about the state. You won’t get far. The United States is by no means perfect in anyone’s eyes. I think we can all agree on that point. But that flag by far represents the freest nation on Earth. That is a privilege you should honor, not trash.”

We have two courses of action. First, you should contact the UC Davis Alumni Association. Encourage them to withhold donations until this unpatriotic bill is reversed.

Second, revoke federal student loans for every senator who supported the bill. It’s hypocritical for the young lawmakers to take taxpayer money from the very nation and government they despise.

As for Mr. Waksman, we are honored to welcome people from other nations — those willing to come here legally, those yearning to breathe free. But it’s incredibly impolite to disrespect the nation that gave you refuge.

So, Mr. Waksman, if you have a problem with the red, white and blue, I would encourage you to go back to wherever you came from.


Students Demand Administrators ‘Take Action’ Against Conservative Journalists

In an open letter to outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby, a group of students from the Claremont Colleges assail the president for affirming Pomona’s commitment to free speech and demand that all five colleges “take action” against the conservative journalists on the staff of the Claremont Independent.

The letter, written by three self-identified Black students at Pomona College, is a response to an April 7 email from President Oxtoby in which he reiterated the college’s commitment to “the exercise of free speech and academic freedom” in the aftermath of protests that shut down a scheduled appearance by an invited speaker, scholar and Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald, on April 6.

“Protest has a legitimate and celebrated place on college campuses,” Oxtoby wrote. “What we cannot support is the act of preventing others from engaging with an invited speaker. Our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, the collaborative development of knowledge and the betterment of society.”

In their open letter, the students sharply disagree.

“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry,” they write.

“Thus, if ‘our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth,’” the students continue, citing Oxtoby’s letter, “how does free speech uphold that value?”

The students also characterize truth as a “myth” and a white supremacist concept.

“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples,” they explain. “The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”

In reference to the protests of Mac Donald, the open letter explains that engaging with Mac Donald’s speech would have amounted to a debate not “on mere difference of opinion, but [on] the right of Black people to exist.”

“Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live,” the letter claims. “Why are you [President Oxtoby], and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?”

The open letter concludes by insisting that Oxtoby apologize for his April 7 email and issue a new message that the college “does not tolerate hate speech and speech that projects violence onto the bodies of its marginalized students and oppressed peoples.”

The students also demand that the Claremont Colleges “take action” against the staff of the Claremont Independent for their “continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.” Taking a step further, they call for “disciplinary action” against conservative journalists from the Claremont Colleges.

“We also demand that Pomona College and the Claremont University Consortium entities take action against the Claremont Independent editorial staff for its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds,” they write. “Provided that the Claremont Independent releases the identity of students involved with this letter and such students begin to receive threats and hate mail, we demand that this institution and its constituents take legal action against members of the Claremont Independent involved with the editing and publication process as well as disciplinary action, such as expulsion on the grounds of endangering the wellbeing of others.”

The letter’s signatories, of whom there are more than 20 at the time of publication, request a response by the afternoon of April 18.


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