There are two places where you’re likely to find details about speakers being censored, banned, or interrupted on U.S. campuses. One is right-wing websites, because, of course, it’s often conservative speakers who are subject to this treatment, with the “left-wing” Pecksniffs acting as censors. (But see below: the Right can be censorious as well, but doesn’t threaten violence so much.) The other site is FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which, like the ACLU used to be, is a nonpartisan group dedicated to preserving civil liberties.
That’s why you won’t find articles about DePaul University’s banning of a conservative speaker in leftish papers like the Washington Post or New York Times. They just don’t care—not until it ignites into a big conflagration. By and large, liberal papers have ignored the accelerating erosion of civil liberties on American campuses, although the NYT‘s piece on FIRE last week was an exception.
So, though I could cite the same facts from The National Review, The Daily Wire, or even Fox News, people would discount the sources as “biased”. I thus call on FIRE to report the facts in a piece called “DePaul continues to rail against viewpoint diversity, bans Ben Shapiro.”
It’s a measure of my ignorance that I didn’t know who Ben Shapiro was (I’ve just discovered that I mentioned him once in a post), but Wikipedia says he’s a 32 year old “American conservative political commentator, nationally syndicated columnist, author, radio talk show host, and attorney.” It’s not like he’s some rube, either: “Shapiro graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 2004 and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007.” From 2012 to this year he was also editor of the conservative site Breitbart. He’s also an Orthodox Jew, a supporter of Israel, and an opponent of the BDS movement, which would further enrage students of the Regressive Left.
Shapiro is a popular speaker on campuses, invited by conservative groups, but his speeches have been interrupted by the Censorious Left (read the story of the dustup at Cal State University at Los Angeles.) And now he’s been banned from speaking at DePaul University here in Chicago for fear of disruption. FIRE gives the details:
In an article for The Daily Wire, the vice chairman for DePaul University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, John Minster, revealed that DePaul’s administrators are once again acting as censors, banning another speaker from campus. This time, the school is forcing his group to disinvite conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from speaking on campus.
In an email to the group’s executive board, DePaul Vice President of Facilities Operations Bob Janis stated security concerns were the reason for not allowing the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire to speak at the university. Shapiro addressed these concerns last night on The Kelly File, saying:
“What I love most about this situation is that they don’t even say that what I’m saying is so terrible. Instead, what they say is that because I’ve been met with violence at other campuses, this raises security concerns. So in other words, they can’t keep their own students from assaulting people . . . basically, we now have the rioters’ veto.”
As I reported in mid-May, DePaul students also interrupted and finally terminated a speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos—a particularly nasty example of histrionics that you can see here. I immediately wrote to DePau’s President, Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider (DePaul’s a nominally Catholic school), and quoted a letter he wrote to the University, affirming his support for free speech and apologizing to the group who had invited Yiannopoulos, the College Republicans. It may not be a coincidence that Holtschneider resigned as President soon thereafter.
According to FIRE, the College Republicans again invited Yiannopoulos to DePaul in July, only to have the University deny that request on grounds of safety. This time is worse, because Shapiro was already invited, and the University is forcing the Young Americans for Freedom to rescind his invitation. I see that as censorship.
What message does this send? It’s clear: make enough noise, and threaten enough disruption, and you can get any speaker you don’t like banned or disinvited. Some Muslim groups have already learned this lesson, and now it’s filtered down to the Regressive Left.
It is the job of college campuses, especially those like DePaul with a written commitment to free speech and viewpoint diversity, to ensure that speakers can deliver their views without unwanted interruption, violence, or disturbances. To disinvite someone because they raise “security concerns” is to invite others to threaten security. Shame on DePaul—for the third time. As FIRE notes,
DePaul has had a long history of hostility towards free speech, including discriminating against a drug policy reform group, shutting down an affirmative action protest, suspending a professor for his expression without a hearing, and forbidding a student group fromprotesting Professor Ward Churchill’s visit to campus. In 2013, DePaul “earned” a spot on FIRE’s annual 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech list when it punished a student for revealing the names of those who vandalized his student group’s campus display.
FIRE will continue to monitor the situation at DePaul and will update Torch readers as new information arises. To learn more about trends in campus disinvitations, visit FIRE’s Disinvitation Database.
Do have a look at that database! It’s 13 pages long with 308 disinvited speakers listed, and also gives the grounds for disinviting and whether those who objected were from the right or left of the speaker. It’s my impression from looking at this quickly that when the database began in 2000, the Right and Left were equally censorious, but over the last couple years the Left has predominated. Perhaps a reader would like to make a plot of this to see if my impression is correct.