How Can They Return if They Never Went Away?

Somewhat apropos, considering the University of Oregon’s rather disappointingly anti-free speech reaction to the Pacfica Forum’s recent Nazi love-fest, is this post on Reason post by Greg Lukianoff, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), wherein he discusses the history of campus speech codes:

College students are placed in an unenviable position. They are constantly urged to argue, debate, discuss, question, and analyze the most important issues of the day, but they also often know stories of other students who were punished for taking the “wrong side” of an argument.

Now, think back to how Charles Martinez, the University of Oregon’s Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity, reacted to the Pacifica Forum’s Nazi-fest:

While I strongly believe that the UO must defend the free exchange of ideas and promote intellectual inquiry, we have a greater responsibility to turn ideas into the discovery of knowledge in a manner that is inclusive and welcoming to all our students and the communities we serve. [emphasis added]

The rhetoric of “inclusivity” and “safety” has become the favored trope of those who want to see speech they don’t like banned, as is evidenced in some of the quotes from this Daily Emerald article about another recent Pacifica Forum meeting:

“I am observing that I have more upset students against your group than on your side,” [Student Body President Emma Kallaway] said. “I have just witnessed you insult a highly educated woman who is a valued member of our campus, and believe that you being here in our student union is a safety issue.”

Kallaway said the EMU is home to the University Women’s Center, Jewish Student Union, Black Student Union and LGBTQ student group, and it is supposed to be a safe area for the diverse student population.

“We don’t want you here in this building,” Kallaway said. “Get out of our safe student union.”

Much like the worn-out epithet “racist,” “safety” is swiftly becoming the newest rhetorical bludgeon to be deployed against unpopular and (in the case of the Pacifica Forum) uncomfortable and disgusting speech. No one really believes that the Pacifica Forum constitutes any real threat to the student body of the University of Oregon. But by casting themselves in the role of (potential) victim, some people hope to exile certain ideas and opinions that they (and most other people) rightly find abhorrent.

Lukianoff again:

When students come to believe that censoring rival points of view is not only permissible but laudable, the potential damage goes far beyond campus. Our colleges and universities produce our scientists, our business leaders, our lawyers, and our legislators. The habits formed in college inevitably seep into the other major social institutions.

For all the blather about “Hate speech does not equal free speech!”, one wonders if these people really have any idea what real “free speech” actually entails. From the Emerald story:

The final voice of opposition from an unidentified student concluded the meeting on a solemn note: “I am a student at my campus and I fear you.”

By this standard, I could have this student, Charles Martinez, and Emma Kallaway thrown off of the University of Oregon campus due to my fear, backed up by their own words, that they intend to violate my civil rights. “Solemn” indeed.

But then, “I’m afraid of you so you have to go away” is a bit of an idiotic standard, don’t you think?


8 Responses to “How Can They Return if They Never Went Away?”

  1. 1 Chris
    January 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    If the Pacifica Forum has a meeting that no one attends…do they make a sound?

  2. 2 CJ Ciaramella
    January 13, 2010 at 3:25 am

    The First Amendment is a hell of a thing. Too bad no one tangled up in this mess (i.e. Pacifica Forum, protesters, university administration) seem to know the slightest sliver of information about it.

  3. 3 Chris
    January 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Saw a Facebook group today, “UO Students Against Pacifica Forum”.


  4. 4 Vincent
    January 14, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Yeah, several people I know are part of it. It’s not that I disagree with the sentiment — I’m incredibly against the Pacifica Forum and everything they stand for, after all. But trying to ban them from campus, especially when all sorts of other uncomfortable and disgusting speech is allowed on campus (this year’s “Whitey Go Home” rally held by the Native American Student Union, for example), is fundamentally in opposition to both the stated values of the University as well as the values enshrined in the Constitution.

  5. 5 CJ Ciaramella
    January 14, 2010 at 10:25 am

    The comments from people on that Facebook page are pretty damn depressing. To wit, after someone points out that banning hate speech is a slippery slope, the next person chimes in with: “Fight and destroy fascism by any means necessary! Don’t let them organize their brutality!”


  6. 6 Chris
    January 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I’m laughing my ass off after reading that.

    The sad thing is that these people don’t realize that by ‘chiming in’ with their anti-fascist (?) rhetoric…they’re only prolonging the whole ordeal. You’ve mentioned as much already (both of you), but it’s worth repeating because it is a paradox of sorts.

  7. 7 Vincent
    January 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I thought radical antifa sloganeering was long past its shelf date. Alas.

  8. 8 CJ Ciaramella
    January 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    The hippies dust it off now and again when they want to feel hardcore. “I was there, man, fighting the fascists!”

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