Intolerance in Wisconsin: The University’s Role

by David French

So now at least some of the protestors in Wisconsin have been reduced to hitting a Fox News reporter and covering up his camera to prevent his broadcast. And this in a protest that features a strong university presence.

Lest anyone forget, the University of Wisconsin at Madison has been one of the leading college censors in the United States. It imposed one of the country’s first and most onerous student-speech codes, imposed a faculty-speech code, ejected Christian student groups from campus in defiance of governing court precedent, and has long fought to marginalize religious speech in it student-fee funding process. While the First Amendment has generally prevailed in the court and political battles that followed, there’s no doubt that a culture of censorship took hold amongst a significant number of professors and administrators at the university.

There are, to be sure, some genuine champions of free speech and free inquiry (Ann Althouse and Donald Downs most notably) at the University of Wisconsin, but there is also an undeniable hostility to conservative thought and ideas from very large segments of the university community. Teachers and students blocking cameras, punching reporters, and shouting down news broadcasts may have learned the wrong lessons at the state’s flagship university.

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