Tufts University restricts free speech, intimidates students

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) defends free speech on campus whether it comes from the Right or Left, and I support their mission. According to their website, they’ve just completed a long investigation of free speech at the private Tufts University near Boston (home of Dan Dennett, by the way). While Tufts need not adhere to the First Amendment, as it’s not a state university, its own written policies promote free speech. But that’s not the way it shakes out.

Here’s a summary of the results and then a video. The main result of the investigation, in fact, is the video, so there’s no document you have to read. That seems  bit problematic, as the video is a bit anecdotal, but the links on the FIRE website do support the anecdotes. The upshot is that free speech, while promoted by the University, is opposed by students, and even some faculty. From the FIRE site:

Students who publicly support unpopular views at Tufts University do so at their own risk.

That’s the conclusion of our months-long investigation into the state of free speech at the elite Boston-area private school.

While not bound by the First Amendment, Tufts’ broadly speech-protectivepolicies promise students the right to free speech. But a variety of other speech codes at Tufts — like its policies on email usage and sexual misconduct, as well as a bias incident reporting systemthat encourages students to anonymously report each other — render a wide swath of non-criminal speech off-limits. And these speech codes are being enforced.

Students have been systematically investigated, interrogated by police, and punished by Tufts for speech the university claims, generally, to permit. What’s more, numerous students told us the campus climate is “toxic” for free inquiry, with a passionate but small and exceptionally like-minded student body attempting to silence “offensive” or disfavored speech — even reporting it to administrators and police, or characterizing it as a literal act of “violence.”

These mutually reinforcing phenomena create a perilous combination for students who want to speak their mind at Tufts: Open disagreement isn’t just “social suicide” — it can get you in serious trouble.

Here’s a ten-minute distillation of FIRE’s investigation:

Some people have commented on this site we have to excuse these students because they’re young, and they’re just naive and will learn and change their authoritarian ways when they “grow up.” I don’t believe that for a minute. These students are moving into the workplace and continue to enforce authoritarian dogma there. They will become authoritarian professors who indoctrinate students in their ideologies. This is not a passing fad, but something that’s here to stay, at least for a while, and we must fight it as hard as we can. Even at the risk of being called “alt-righters” for supporting the right of anyone to speak according to First Amendment guidelines, the issue is too important for us to remain silent for fear of personal demonization.

To see the depth and breadth of the problem, watch this 9-minute FIRE video (it’s a bit of an ad for that organization), which gives five egregious examples of universities violating free speech and other student rights:

Happy holidays, everyone! I’ll be on the plane to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) on Christmas.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I wonder if such anti free-speech acts are themselves are just one of those silly things college students should immerse themselves in to realize how stupid it is, like, say, shakras, reiki, or such things…

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    … and Happy Holidays!

    And Merry Christmas!

    ^^^^dont let “saying merry Christmas” be taken away, just like flying an American flag was…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 24, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Ugh. … why did I have to write that…

      Happy Hols!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        You’re virtue-signaling to your future Trumpian Overlord.

        • BJ
          Posted December 24, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          Or our future Christmas robot overlords, rising from the lawns to rule.

  3. Jon Gallant
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Apparently, the meme that disapproved speech constitutes “violence” and therefore should be outlawed is commonplace AMONG THE TFTS STUDENTS. So it must have been planted in their heads before they became college students. Therefore, perhaps the place to look for the seeds of such attitudes is in highschool and middleschool and even elementary school teaching.

    Or perhaps it ought to be traced back to the Schools of Education in colleges around the country where teachers are trained and certified. Here and there, sources like Campus Fix publicize perticular idiocies from this quarter, such as assertions that Science is sexist, racist, colonialist, etc. etc. I wonder whether this sort of thing might be much more widespread than we suspect.

  4. Posted December 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    All of the examples in the Five Outrageous Cases.. video are totally outrageous! A student orientation group demanding to know ones’ attitudes about gays! Else you are ‘written up’! Yowsa, that is total b.s.

  5. mfdempsey1946
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    For a good US higher education in whatever discipline nowadays, more and more it is starting to appear that being an autodidact rather than a university student (even at a top-rated school) would be the better choice.

    Or so the constant proliferation of stories like this one often makes it seem.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    These people, throughout the schools who do not have belief in or respect for freedom of speech and the first amendment could join forces with the Donald Trump party where they decide what is and what is not fake news. It is simply a different tact to control the same thing, free speech. We could call it – How to kill the first amendment 101. Or maybe they could all sit down and watch the two hour documentary – The most dangerous man in America. Then go home and think about it, however long it takes to get these stupid ideas out of your heads.

  7. Posted December 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I am a Tufts alumni and I have been aware of these issues for quite a while. I had wanted to interact with the secular/atheist group on campus, but it became a vehicle for increasingly radicalized social justice indoctrination. The whole campus was going through ideological spasms when I finished around 2015. This is shameful, and I hope someone can organize a response from troubled graduates like myself to encourage the university to take more decisive action to protect speech on campus.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 24, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      This self imposed shut down and banning of unwanted speech can and will come back to haunt the very people who support this. Do they not see this with their censorship and speech police, and if not, why not?

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted December 25, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      “…the secular/atheist group on campus, but it became a vehicle for increasingly radicalized social justice indoctrination.”

      Ah, so that’s where Atheism + went.

  8. Posted December 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    This sort of problem is very widely known and very widely discussed so that people from all walks of life seem familiar with the issue. My students, which is at a medium-sized University in the Midwest, are familiar with it although they only puzzled about it. So far none of this sort of thing has arisen in my environment that I am aware of (thank d*g).

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    If college students have not learned that censorship is wrong, and aren’t learning it in college, where will they learn it? I think teaching that is more important than teaching about diversity.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted December 24, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Poster #9 asserts publicly that teaching about freedom of speech “is more important than teaching about diversity”. We are SHOCKED by the violence of this thought.

      Poster #9 will shortly receive a reprimand from the Dean. He (or she or zher?) will be forbidden to use the bathroom until he has completed a training course in Diversity, Inclusivity, and Rightthink, and has been examined and approved by the Equity Council.

    • Posted January 28, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      + 1

  10. BJ
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    What’s just as frightening to me is the insistence by schools like this that they support free speech and that their students are free to express themselves. We can’t even trust schools when they say they are committed to their students’ freedom.

    Now we are also seeing attempts to restrict freedom of thought, as with the demands discussed in the video to know students’ views of gay people. That’s stepping things up from authoritarian to totalitarian.

    • Posted January 28, 2018 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      All totalitarian systems love to call themselves free, democratic and whatever. When I was young, my country was a classic socialist dictatorship calling itself a “people’s democracy”. Another example: which Korea is calling itself democratic?

  11. Simon
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    As Jordan Peterson has said, Social Science departments are churning out activists. Brett Weinstein thinks that there are people with a political agenda behind the social justice indoctrination. They have deliberately engineered an environment where anyone presenting political opposition is automatically smeared with a stigmatising label such as racist, misogynist or nazi. They use words like ‘violence’ to describe reasonable argument. It’s all a battering ram to cow the opposition into silence.The people behind it know what they are doing and it works. According to Weinstein, people used to avoid confronting Naima Lowe at Evergreen for fear of the consequences.

    The tactics in play are well known authoritarian tools, so I don’t think it is a stretch to think that the seeds were deliberately planted by the Soviets in the 60’s or 70’s when they realised they hadn’t a hope of winning over the masses in the West and came up with what we know of as Cultural Marxism. There’s an ex KGB guy on yotube who claims that the Soviets did indeed run programmes of cultural subversion and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t have.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      The Soviet Union couldn’t hold on to its own empire — and had to send tanks into Budapest as early as ’56 and Czechoslovakia in ’68 to hang on to control in eastern Europe. Yet it somehow “planted the seeds” of Cultural Marxism in the West in the 60s and 70s? (In any event, postmodernist neo-Marxism has its roots in the Frankfurt School of Adorno and Marcuse and Horkheimer and Habermas et al., not Soviet communism.)

      But, hey, some rando guy on YouTube claiming to be ex-KGB says so, so it must be true.

      • Craw
        Posted December 25, 2017 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        Meh. Ancient Israel couldn’t keep its empire but spread the seeds of Christianity and Islam, which conquered and finally destroyed the Roman Empire. You can’t refute particular arguments with generalities.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 25, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

          You aware of any evidence that cultural Marxism on today’s western college campuses is the result of a Soviet plot during the Sixties and Seventies — I mean, aside from what “Simon” says some rando KBG guy said on YouTube?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 25, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          Oh, and what “empire” of “Ancient Israel” are you referring to? The Kingdom of Israel (such as it was) fell in the 8th century BCE, and Judea was generally under the thumb, seriatim, of the Assyrians, the Greeks, and the Romans from then through the Diaspora.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 25, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Also, while I’m well aware of Gibbon’s theory regarding the role of Christianity in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Christianity was hardly spread to Rome as part of a plot to achieve that end. Paul of Tarsus, the person most responsible for proselytizing Christianity throughout the Empire, was himself a proud Roman citizen (and is reputed to have uttered Cicero’s famous phrase “civis romanus sum” at his own trial).

        • Posted December 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Christianity arose during a period where the Middle East was largely Hellenistic and run by the Romans. Ancient Israel (i.e. David’s empire) was little more than a legend by then – if it ever existed at all.

          • Craw
            Posted December 25, 2017 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

            Guys, I am just pointing out how weak Ken’s argument is. The collapse of the dictatorship of the USSR is quite irrelevant to the claim he was trying to refute.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

              Because the best way to refute a weak argument is to create from whole cloth a bogus conspiracy carried out by a non-existent empire. I’m still waiting for the first shred of evidence that Cultural Marxism was a Soviet plot. Or was your purpose to critique a weak argument reaching an accurate conclusion?

            • Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

              As Ken says, your counter example is fictitious.

              It’s a bit weird though, while I agree with him that there is no evidence that the Soviet Union planted cultural marxism in the West, the idea that planting such seeds and sending the tanks into Czechoslovakia were mutually exclusive is somewhat bizarre. Also, however unstable, the Soviet empire manifestly did exist right up until the late 1980’s

      • Posted December 25, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        Adorno, Marcuse and the rest of the Frankfurt School were the original cultural Marxists. Their work was continued by theorists like Richard Hoggart in the U.K. They used the term ‘Cultural Marxism’ right up until the Nineties. It was the term in use when I took my sociology degree under tutors who identified with the ideology themselves.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 25, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          I take it, then, that you agree with me that Cultural Marxism was not the result of some Soviet plot, inasmuch as the Frankfurt School came of age during the Stalinist depredations and rejected Soviet-style communism?

  12. rickflick
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I found the interview with the female faculty member who said she once was an advocate of full free speech but now thinks the issue is “complicated”. I think she either feels threatened and won’t say what she really thinks on camera, or she’s been brainwashed and has fallen in with the mob.

    • Posted December 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      I think the teacher’s explanation is the former: she’s intimidated.

  13. Thanny
    Posted December 24, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s still Bangalore.

    English names for foreign cities don’t necessarily match the native names. It’s always been that way. I don’t know why it’s trendy as of late to get rid of those names in favor of something closer to the native city name (e.g. Peking vs. Beijing), but I don’t think it’s coincidental that it only seems to apply to nations with a majority non-white population.

    There are no cities in Germany called Munich, Cologne, or Nuremburg. Hell, there’s no nation called Germany, for that matter. But that’s how we refer to them in English.

    I think it’s all part of this obsession with decolonization among the authoritarian left.

    • Craw
      Posted December 25, 2017 at 1:33 am | Permalink

      Indeed. One of my Indian friends deplores it too. She says Bombay. To do otherwise picks one winner amongst fractious local linguistic communities.

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