October 20, 2006

Picking on Undergrad Politicos

by PG

Reacting to the Columbia melee that became a Daily Show segment and fulfilled conservatives' fantasies of the leftist Ivy League, the University Senate is considering whether to pass a resolution on free speech. I am fairly willing to interpret such idealistic statements in a kind and positive manner, but I sincerely could not figure out what it was supposed to mean.

WHEREAS, Columbia University and its community has the responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that we all have the ability to express our intellectual freedom within our institution, and
WHEREAS, the Student Body of Columbia University has a right to invite speakers with varied points of view to campus, and it is unacceptable within our community, to take away someone else’s right to express their opinions and viewpoints, and
WHEREAS, the Student Affairs Caucus represents the entire student body of Columbia University,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Student Affairs Caucus stands behind the principles of free speech on campus, and demands that the Columbia University Community stand firm in our commitment to allow all views to be heard.

It clearly is against forbidding any viewpoint from being expressed at Columbia, but that doesn't really help. The protestors themselves keep saying that they didn't try to keep the Minutemen from coming to Columbia, nor did they attempt to remove the Minutemen from campus once they were here. The protestors' defense is that they, too, were expressing their viewpoint -- they just happened to be expressing it in the same time and space that the Minutemen were attempting to express theirs. As one protestor put it in her Fox News interview (question: has anyone calculated whether it's the Republicans or the protestors who are closer to running out their 15 minutes of fame?), the sponsors of the Minutemen event "shut themselves down," having sensibly realized that no real speaking could occur with the level of noise and proximity of protestors. Until the Senate proposes actual guidelines* that all student groups are mandated to follow or risk losing funding and recognized status, its resolution will have neither meaning nor bite.

* Suggestions:
- Requirement that all groups bringing speakers offer a response time to those wishing to present the opposing viewpoint;
- Requirement that students, while attending an event, not bring protest material (signs, puppets, etc.) and must constrain their own speech to the Q&A period or response time, and penalizing any student organization -- including those led by people claiming to act individually (though the organization can retain its status and funding if it removes the individual from leadership and membership) -- who does otherwise;
- Rather obviously, the requirement that all students attending an event who are not scheduled speakers remain in the seating area, and that Columbia security will be authorized to publicly spank those who leave it. Not spank them hard, more like a birthday spank, just by way of saying, "Either your parents didn't raise you right, or it didn't take effect if they tried, so let's give it another shot."

October 20, 2006 04:28 PM | TrackBack

The protestors' defense is that they, too, were expressing their viewpoint -- they just happened to be expressing it in the same time and space that the Minutemen were attempting to express theirs.

Reminds me of one of my favorite Chesterton quotes:
"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

Sadly, I think you'll find that Columbia, from its administration on down, values "speech" but places very low standards upon decorum.

Posted by: A. Rickey at October 20, 2006 06:41 PM
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