Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Government or the Citizens?


I’ve been following with intense interest FIRE’s efforts on behalf of a student-government leader found guilty of “spamming” for sending an e-mail to a subsection of university faculty protesting a change to the school calendar. It strikes me that such draconian “computer network acceptable-use policies” have something in common with other parsimonious policies involving so called “university assets,” such as highly restrictive speech zones, discriminatory facilities-access policies, and discriminatory student-fee regimes.

Because university officials are so often functionally and philosophically statist, they view “university assets” as government assets in more of the European sense, i.e. to be used to accomplish specific government goals (as defined by their own philosophy and outlook). Yet the American conception of university facilities is that they ultimately belong to those who have bought and paid for those assets, the citizens. The role of the government official, then, is to open those assets to their widest possible use — after all, taxpayers and tuition-paying students are Democrat and Republican, libertarian and socialist, Christian and Jewish, hunters and PETA activists.

Does it really burden the university network for a student leader to send an e-mail to faculty? Of course not. The only “burden” is to the state’s effort to implement its agenda. The only “burden” is the burden of responding to argument and criticism, and if administrators can’t handle that burden, perhaps they need to find a new line of work.


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