It’s clear that Nancy Thomas, director of the Democracy Imperative at the University of New Hampshire, has had enough. Student activists have finally crossed lines of propriety and legality, and they need to be called out. She writes in Inside Higher Ed:
We need to be clear about what these acts are: attention-seeking tactics that intimidate faculty, students, and guest speakers, distort facts, reduce public issues to simplistic sound-bites, and inhibit the thoughtful exchange of ideas and deliberation, both in and out of the classroom.
Which “acts” is Ms. Thomas talking about? What horrors does she reveal? Perhaps she’s concerned about activists at North Carolina violently disrupting former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s speech. She was possibly frightened by the attack on Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist at Columbia. Or maybe she’s talking about California students illegally interrupting a speech by a respected foreign diplomat. Or she’s alarmed at students seizing control of administration buildings for days at a time. Doubtless she’s disturbed by various “pieing” incidents aimed at conservative commentators. Certainly death and rape threats against peaceful student activists got her attention.
Or perhaps not. Here’s what really gets her goat:
An organized group of conservative students whose tactics are already well-known on many college campuses: selling cookies at reduced rates to women and students-of-color in protest of affirmative action; sneaking video cameras into classrooms and campus forums and posting out-of-context excerpts, often anonymously, as evidence of liberal indoctrination on campus; hosting a gun raffle; researching and publicizing campaign contributions of faculty members and staff. High jinks? Really? Check the campusreform.org Web site, which advises, “Why take action? Because it will shock your opposition.” Is that why activism matters, to shock and discourage others? Are faculty members and other students “the opposition?”
Oh, and she’s also upset at James O’Keefe’s alleged criminal activities in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s officies. You may recall James O’Keefe . . . he’s the conservative activist who I don’t think is a student anywhere.
Surely Ms. Thomas is joking. Selling cookies (gasp)? Taping forums and (oh, the horror!) posting excerpts? Raffles? Disclosing campaign contributions by (allegedly) unbiased faculty? Can the campus survive such atrocities? Oh, and of course there’s Leadership Institute’s website, which currently contains such incitements as conservative students’ (peaceful) efforts to oppose student-fee increases at UNC, an article arguing that Climategate is an “embarassment” to Penn State, and a post celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday.
I would hope that the director of a Democracy Imperative would understand that the free speech she condemns is the lifeblood of a republic, while the litany of violence I recount above actually threatens political discourse. But of course that’s violence from the left, so it can’t really be threatening. Those activists, after all, are idealistic.