Campus conflict

Campus conflict

Tale of two schools sends a message.

There was a protest on the University of Illinois campus Thursday, a small group of people expressing their disdain for the supposedly "controversial conservative" speaker named Charlie Kirk.

Identified as a founder of Turning Point USA, Kirk, a member of President Donald Trump's transition team, spoke in favor of such concepts as the virtues of capitalism, the system on which this country's economy operates; fiscal responsibility, surely a relevant topic in a state that is effectively bankrupt; and limited government, a subject deeply relevant considering the U.S. Constitution was written as a means of limiting government's control over we the people.

Kirk's critics, perhaps getting carried away with emotion, called him a fascist, a label some people apply uniformly to those with whom they disagree on even such mundane topics.

But here is what matters. The protesters protested. Those who wished to hear Kirk speak at a room in the Illini Union were able to hear his speech uninterrupted.

In case of a problem — there was none — there was sufficient security to keep the two sides apart and avoid any trouble.

That's the way it should be. Everybody got their chance to speak and be heard.

That doesn't happen every day on college campuses, where weak-kneed administrators are scared of their own shadows and too often inclined to submit to hecklers' vetoes.

Consider what happened recently at William & Mary in Maryland, where a speech by one of the university's graduates now with the American Civil Liberties Union was scheduled.

The irony of what occurred is disgracefully delicious.

Invited guest Claire Gastanaga intended to deliver a lecture titled "Students and the First Amendment," certainly a timely subject from which students could learn.

But protesters from Black Lives Matter took over the room and halted the proceedings with chants that included, "ACLU, you protect Hitler, too," "the oppressed are not impressed" and "shame, shame, shame, shame."

They even fired a shot across the bow of liberals who've shown a disturbing lack of outrage when campus leftists shout down conservative speakers.

"Liberalism is white supremacy," the Black Lives Matter protesters shouted.

In an amazing display of unpardonable acquiescence, the meeting organizers turned the microphone over to protesters who read a statement denouncing the proceedings as well as the ACLU's long-standing practice of defending free speech rights for all.

Then organizers declared the meeting closed and audience members were directed to leave.

Some audience members declined to go, seeking to speak with the ACLU's Gastanaga. But protesters surrounded Gastanaga so no one could get close to talk to her and shouted loudly so no one could speak with her through the curtain of people surrounding her.

In the aftermath of this abomination at a supposed bastion of free discussion and inquiry, William & Mary officials issued a statement expressing regret over what occurred. They warned that "silencing certain voices to advance the cause of others is not acceptable" and said William & Mary "must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations."

Easy ones, too. Just what's so hard about listening to a talk on "Students and the First Amendment"? Those words, however, are meaningless if university officials take this kind of conduct lying down. The wrongdoers must be identified and sanctioned, or there will be more assaults on speech at William & Mary.

It's good that the UI wasn't the site of a similar disgrace. But the protest here wasn't much because the event wasn't much. Those expressing outrage over Kirk's appearance probably never heard of him a week before learning he was coming to the Illini Union and won't remember his name a week from now. Non-entities rarely spark real moral outrage.

So the issue at the UI is not closed, by any means. Tougher tests will come. If they do, it's our hope, though not our expectation, that UI officials will respond more vigorously than their counterparts at William & Mary who did little more than issue a statement containing platitudes while cowering beneath their desks.

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PSL wrote on October 09, 2017 at 7:10 am

They say if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Congrats to the N-G editorial board for getting to do one of their favorite things: writing an op-ed telling black folks to sit down, shut up, and stop acting uppity.

pattsi wrote on October 09, 2017 at 7:10 am

Isn't the College of William and Mary located in Williamsburg VA.? Here is the article about the incident from the Chronicle of Higher Education

BruckJr wrote on October 09, 2017 at 8:10 am

Based on past history you will be sorely disappointed if you expect Dr. Jones to take any action:

rsp wrote on October 09, 2017 at 2:10 pm

The group invoked the violence in Charlottesville in a statement issued Thursday night: “The ACLU consciously chose to intervene on behalf of organized white supremacy in Charlottesville. We find this intolerable. Members of our organization were nearly struck by the car that killed Heather Heyer on Aug. 12 -- our protest of the ACLU event on Sept. 27 was driven by our firm belief that white supremacy does not deserve a platform. The right to free speech is a fundamental human right. However, speech that condones, supports or otherwise fails to explicitly condemn injustice must be directly confronted.”

"But protesters from Black Lives Matter" "the Black Lives Matter protesters"

You know BLM isn't an organization, right? It's an idea, a hashtag. A federal judge even ruled that was the case.

The ACLU has sort of acknowledged it needs to change it's policies, such as not representing groups who want to hold rallies with guns. Or was it weapons in general. What they have failed to do is sit down with any of the groups who were affected by their decisions. They need to be heard so they will understand why the work they do is important.

David Prochaska wrote on October 09, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Dey is a free speech absolutist.

What that means is that if someone wants to speak, you let him or her. No matter the message. No matter the cost. You are either in favor, or not. It’s black and white.

In theory, it’s simple, straightforward. In practice, it’s difficult, fraught.

Absolutists like Dey talk about free speech as if it existed in a theoretical vacuum divorced from real life. They don’t discuss the way it actually works in practice. Because to do so undermines their purist argument.

But it’s not as simplistic and easy as true-believer absolutists like Dey make it out. It’s gray, it’s complicated, it’s fraught.

What if someone wants to come not with a message to impart but to provoke, to throw a verbal firebomb in the public square?

Alt-right provocateurs do that regularly.

What if a person on stage throws out the name, photo and personal contact information of a person with a minority sexual orientation?

Milo Younnapoulis does that regularly.

What if a small but well-organized, national group with deep pockets with a systematic agenda to flood campuses with alt-right provocateurs pays all their costs?

That’s what the Young America’s Foundation does regularly.®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article

The Conservative Force Behind Speeches Roiling College Campuses By STEPHANIE SAULMAY 20, 2017

What if due to the provocative nature of these appearances universities are forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on police and logistics?

It cost Berkeley $600,000 for Ben Shapiro recently. They were looking at having to spend $1 million for Milo Yiannopoulos’s “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley.

Free Speech Week at Berkeley Is Canceled, but Milo Yiannopoulos Still Plans to Talk By JACEY FORTINSEPT. 23, 2017

What if this cost to schools is part of the alt-right plan to attack and criticize public universities and liberal education across the board?

What if some people, some students – women, minorities -- feel more physically threatened than whites, especially males, in the presence of alt-right speech provocateurs?

Free speech absolutists and provocateurs like Dey respond to such concerns mostly by attacking and denigrating the messenger. Get a life. Suck it up. Quit being a wussy snowflake.

Easy for male, white-privileged Dey to say. He doesn’t know what it’s like. Free speech absolutists like Dey exhibit the very same lack of empathy as… Donald Trump.

What if this is not about “free speech” so much as hate speech? Dey and his ilk don’t want to talk about hate speech. They want the conversation to stick to “free speech” – as if it occurs in a political and moral vacuum.

The question is not that free speech guarantees speech to those who say things we don’t agree with. The question is whether a free speech platform should be extended to those who say and believe things completely inimical to the aims and values we hold as a society, even when we don’t live up to them.

It’s one thing to give free speech to someone who attacks individuals and individual beliefs. It’s something else entirely to give free speech to someone who attacks entire groups, or classes of people based simply on their ascribed identities.

“Speech that questions the very humanity of any person on campus has no place in a university. Let’s call it what it is: hate speech. There are people claiming that certain members of our community are not fully human, and we’re being asked to legitimize this as an admissible argument?

This is speech that attempts to limit the free speech rights of entire categories of people by virtue of their ascribed identities. It’s the ultimate irony: suppressing free speech under the banner of free speech.”®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article

Would you, Jim Dey, let an avowed neo-Nazi speak?

Would you, Jim Dey, let an avowed Holocaust denier speak?

Yes, and yes, because Jim Dey is a free speech absolutist.

Elsewhere in the western world, free speech exists, as both conservatives and liberals would agree, but there are also strictures on hate speech.

In Germany, Nazism and Holocaust denial is considered hate speech, and not allowed. France, too, has strictures on unlimited free speech.

But for free speech absolutist Jim Dey, hate speech is just fine.

cwakefld wrote on October 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

This is horrifying to me. That someone can use the term "free speech absolutist" as a deragatory term is terrifying. I am also terrified by Donald Trumps attempts to limit speech. Both of you think that you have acceptable reasons to limit speech, and you're both wrong.

If you do not believe in freedom of expression for those you despise, you do not believe in it at all

And before you ask. Yes, I believe that includes NFL players standing or kneeling or quite frankly performing whatever protest they choose during whatever song they choose.


Illiniwek222 wrote on October 13, 2017 at 9:10 am

Totally agree. When does the Chief return??

firstamendment2012 wrote on October 09, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Are you serious?

So all that vandalism didn't occur?

So the destruction to that groups property didn't occur?

So you think the speaker was a nobody - why do the protestors get a pat on the back from the News-Gazette when there are videos of them breaking the law and trying to suppress these students voices?

Ridiculous. Im cancelling my subscription to this news outlet. 

Tom Napier wrote on October 10, 2017 at 11:10 am

From the University of Wisconsin, via Chicago Tribune ...

"University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.

'Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,' system President Ray Cross told the regents. 'If we don't show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.'"


David Prochaska wrote on October 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Eagerly awaiting Dey’s defense of NFL players’ right to free speech, and his criticism of Trump’s attacks on that free speech.®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Trending&pgtype=article

“President Trump threatened on Tuesday to use federal tax law to penalize the National Football League over players who kneel in protest during the national anthem as he sought to escalate a political fight that has resonated with his conservative base.”

But I’m not holding my breath given Dey’s hypocrisy and dishonesty.

justthefacts wrote on October 11, 2017 at 5:10 pm


The NFL is a very profitable business and does not need or deserve any special tax consideration. This issue predates Trump and has been a concern for quite some time. 

The constitutional right to free speech prevents government entities from prior restaint of speech. It does not apply to employers, who can implement whatever restrictions they deem appropriate to their business. Since public universities are govenment entities they are subject to the constitutional provisions regarding free speech, which business owners are not. 

I despise Donald Trump, but interjecting him into the argument regarding free speech on college campuses is just a diversionary tactic. 


JohnRalphio wrote on October 13, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Was the News-Gazette so deeply concerned with free speech on campus back in 2015, when online trolls threatened to shoot feminist speaker Anita Sarkeesian if she appeared as invited at Utah State? And then the university couldn't guarantee her safety, so the event was cancelled?

Or is it just convenient to talk about it now, when it makes college students look bad for objecting to alt-right nonsense thinly disguised as free speech?

Maybe the News-Gazette could make the slightest effort not to show how disappointed they are that the recent protest here was, in fact, organized, civilized, and respectful. They've been hoping to milk campus controversy for page views since what's-his-face came to town.