In recent days, we’ve been treated to the sad spectacle of students at Tufts University punishing a newspaper for engaging in “offensive” satire and the (even worse) outrage of Hamline University actually suspending a student for merely advocating concealed carry on campus. While there was good news as Georgetown University agreed to re-affiliate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship by the beginning of next school year, even this welcome development reminds one of the year InterVarsity and other groups spent off campus after their summary (and still not fully explained) suspension.
Students at private universities punished for the basic exercise of free speech rights have very few good options. Unless (i) the school has crystal clear rules granting free speech and/or due process; and (ii) the school sits in a state that will enforce such rules against the school, then they are essentially at the mercy of the universities and the absurd (and highly ideological) kangaroo courts they create to enforce the dominant ideology.
All this raises the question, if you are a conservative student (especially a reasonably outspoken conservative student), why go to a mainstream private university? As is becoming increasingly clear, you are gambling quite a bit (up to $50,000 each year, including room, board, and other expenses) on schools that have no regard for you, your rights, or your future. As many of even our most elite schools increasingly position themselves as the “Bob Jones of the Left,” conservative students (despite university promotional literature to the contrary) should realize that they may be less welcome at the Tufts (and elsewhere) than a militantly Darwinian atheist at Bob Jones.
At a public university, you can challenge bigotry and censorship. At a private university, you basically pay (handsomely) to lose your rights.