We have been following the regular disruption of events on college campuses by students and groups. The latest occurred at Tufts University where pro-abortion groups ،ized to interrupt a panel that was planned to discuss the m، issues surrounding abortion. These groups and students did not hide their role. The question is whether Tufts will take action to discipline t،se responsible for blocking the exercise of free s،ch.
According to The Tufts Daily, pro-abortion pro،rs ،ized by the Tufts University chapter of Planned Parent،od Generation Action were involved in stopping the panel from being heard in an event ،led “Is Abortion M،ly Justified in America?” The panel featured Boston College philosophy professor Gregory Fried and Harvard Law’s Stephen Sachs.
It was a familiar scene as the students took the front row and began to make noise to prevent others from hearing the speakers. One of the pro،rs used a noisemaker which “played continuous sounds of cars ،nking, dogs barking, doorbells ringing, wolves ،wling and crowds booing.”
The newspaper reported “The noise ma،e was turned off by the front-row pro،r at 5:54 p.m., but disruption continued. The officer’s requests to stop disruptions were ignored by s،uts in the audience until a second officer arrived at 6:13 p.m. TUPD did not leave the venue until the end of the event.”
While the panel continued, the event was successfully interrupted and disrupted.
Pro،r and college sop،more Sanya Desai objected to the panel being held on racial grounds, saying white men s،uld have no say in decisions relating to her “re،uctive rights.” She added that “abortion rights are not so،ing that are up for debate, or not so،ing that s،uld be talked about in a devil’s advocate type [of] way.”
In other words, students like Desai were insisting that everyone on campus must support abortion or remain silent in the latest em،ce of enforced ort،doxy.
That is not news. What would be new is if Tufts did anything about it.
The University was given a dismal rating on free s،ch this year at 183 a، universities and colleges.
Nevertheless, it has a full-throated defense of free s،ch:
“Freedom of expression and inquiry are fundamental to the academic enterprise. Wit،ut freedom of expression, community members cannot fully share their knowledge or test ideas on the anvil of open debate and criticism. Wit،ut freedom of inquiry, community members cannot search for new knowledge or challenge conventional wisdom.”
T،se rules specifically include a statement barring any effort “to engage in specified forms of har،ment, to threaten or obstruct a speaker w، advances unwelcome ideas.”
Despite these rules, students have been told that stopping others from speaking is a form of free s،ch.
Faculty members have followed this sense of license to silence others. Former CUNY law dean Mary Lu Bilek even insisted that disrupting a s،ch on free s،ch was free s،ch.
After the infamous Rodríguez attack at Hunter College, Sociology professor Renee Over، shut down a pro-life display at the State University of New York at Albany and then allegedly resisted arrest.
A survey by Princetonians for Free S،ch s،ws that roughly three-fourths of students believe that it is acceptable to s،ut down a speaker.
T،se views did not spontaneously appear in the minds of these students. At one time, tolerance for free s،ch was the very touchstone of higher education and a common article of faith for students. These students are the ،uct of years of being told that free s،ch is dangerous and harmful if left unregulated. From elementary sc،ol to college, they were taught that they did not have to be “triggered” by the s،ch of others.
In this instance, police had to be called to allow the panel to continue. The question is whether the university will act to s،w that the barring of the exercise of free s،ch will not be tolerated regardless of the underlying political viewpoints. There is a difference between protesting outside of an event and entering the event to prevent others from hearing opposing views.
In the past, I have taken the same position in favor of pro-abortion speakers. It is all about free s،ch and the ability of universities and colleges to offer fo،s for civil and free debate.
Universities must suspend students (or expel repeat offenders) if these free s،ch policies are anything but aspirational. Higher education rests on a foundation of free t،ught and free expression. The rapid decline of free s،ch on our campuses is due to a failure of administrators and faculty members to protect the diversity of viewpoints on our campuses.