Geoffrey R. Stone: "The New Censorship on Campus"

The New Censorship on Campus
Jeffrey Herbst and Geoffrey R. Stone
The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 5, 2017

The turmoil at Evergreen State College — where a professor is facing accusations of racism and demands for his resignation because he said white students should not be asked to leave campus for a day — is only the most recent example of free-speech controversies roiling colleges across the country.

Free speech faces many challenges at colleges and universities these days, but none greater than the growing skepticism of some students — especially those who feel particularly marginalized and disempowered in our society. Vocal elements of these groups increasingly question what the Supreme Court has celebrated as the country’s profound commitment to "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" public discourse.

Campaigns led by these students to silence and to exclude from their campuses speakers whose views they find offensive and odious has triggered a serious politicization of the principle of free speech, with "progressive" and minority students tending to condemn freedom of speech, and political conservatives suddenly waving the flag of free expression. This politicization of a fundamental right would be bad enough if it were to stay on campuses, but, as Evergreen State demonstrates, controversies at higher-education institutions are driving the polarization of free speech nationwide. It also poses a special danger to the interests of those very same minority students because, in the long run, it is they who most need the vibrant protection of freedom of speech as an essential and powerful weapon in our continuing struggle for equality.

Faculty: 
Geoffrey R. Stone