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Free speech again quashed at Harvard

RSVPeeved Dept.
By HARVEY SILVERGLATE  |  October 21, 2009

It should come as no surprise to readers of “Freedom Watch” that yet another instance of political, intellectual, and academic censorship has sprung up at Harvard, the self-touted pinnacle of higher education.

Last week, the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee withdrew an invitation to the founder of the controversial Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, to be a panelist at its upcoming conference on immigration. Gilchrist is a strong proponent of severe restrictions on immigration, including arming citizens to round up those who enter the country illegally. In February, he was part of a Harvard Law School panel discussion on border security and immigration reform.

This latest example of blatant censorship and narrow-mindedness at Harvard was justified by an undergraduate who told the Boston Globe (in a line that typifies modern academic repression), “It’s a victory for people who are trying to get hate out of the immigration debate. There’s a difference between having views and hate speech.”

Of course, there absolutely is no such difference — the Supreme Court has held that “hate speech” is constitutionally protected. Besides, by extending the initial invitation, the group conceded that Gilchrist was worth listening to. The ground for disinviting him was clearly related to disagreement with his point of view.

But what can you expect, given that the speech code in effect at Harvard College, devised by the administration and approved by the faculty, prohibits “using racial stereotypes” or “verbal comments or suggestions” of a sexual nature?

How do these codes play into the current contretemps? At Harvard and on campuses across the country, students are the new speech police. Censorship — not more speech — is the weapon of choice against viewpoints with which they disagree. The restrictive policies implemented a generation ago by administrators, and allowed by faculty, are now bearing the fruit of student self-censorship. In the marketplace of ideas, you don’t learn how to offer a superior product by forcing your opponents off of the shelf.

We as a nation may one day resolve the highly contentious immigration problem that so divides the American people: how and where we should draw a line against people seeking liberty and opportunity in what once was called the New World — people very much like our own ancestors. But it is becoming clearer with time that the answers are not going to come from academia, where a free and honest discussion is no longer permitted.

Related: Whitewash, I stand by what I said, Slideshow: Record Hospital Fest 2009, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Politics, Domestic Policy, Political Policy,  More more >
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Re: Free speech again quashed at Harvard
 Oh, are we getting all first Amendment, then? Let's go there: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." My copy of the Constitution seems to be missing the part that says "Private Institutions shall be compelled to give a platform to any two-bit wackaloon who shouts loudly enough about being censored". Grow up, man. Harvard has every right to decide that they won't endorse a hatemonger by allowing him the use of their private resources to push his message. He's perfectly free to go stand in the Pit and yell to the passerby, who will ignore him, as he should be ignored.
By tobascodagama on 10/21/2009 at 3:05:56
Re: tobascodagama
Funny, my copy of this article seems to be missing the part that says "the First Amendment." If it did, you'd be right -- there's nothing in the constitution that compels a private institution to host any and every speaker. But this article doesn't argue that Harvard has a legal requirement to host the speaker; instead, it says that Harvard is a center of intellectual inquiry, and if it hosts controversial viewpoints with which students disagree, then students should counter these viewpoints with arguments of their own -- not censor the speaker.  Second: so much of this controversy seems to be concerned with Harvard's "endorsement" (your words) of his views. Since when has a university "endorsed" every speaker brought to campus? If that were the case, then only university-friendly speakers would have a platform. (And if you're concerned with the legitimacy or publicity lended to the speaker by Harvard's name, just think about how much press he's gotten from having his talk censored.) Finally, look at the chronology: he was invited, then disinvited. At some point, it was decided that his views were too controversial for Harvard students to hear. I'm assuming, from your generally smart-ass tone, that you're a Harvard student. If that's the case, maybe you should consider hearing "two-bit wackaloons" and formulating responses of your own. If you can't handle that, well, maybe you should grow up, man.
By SellYourClothes_KeepYourThoughts on 10/22/2009 at 11:16:18

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    It should come as no surprise to readers of “Freedom Watch” that yet another instance of political, intellectual, and academic censorship has sprung up at Harvard, the self-touted pinnacle of higher education.
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