The Corner

Can Leftist Student Activists Survive Without Their Professional Babysitters and Allies?

Read this story carefully, from Reason:

Pro-lifers at the University of California at Davis were heckled by pro-choice student-protesters who grabbed their flyers and threw them on the ground — in full view of a campus security officer.

The counter-protest was organized by the UC-Davis Women’s Resources and Research Center, which enlisted students to make “content warning signs” — visual trigger warnings — and even hold umbrellas for pro-choice dem­on­stra­tors (so they don’t get sunburns, I guess?). The center also provided counselors for any pro-choice demonstrators who were traumatized by the event.

“Mind Spa Peer Counselors will also provide empathetic listening, support, and access to Mind Spa Services on the first floor of North Hall,” a representative of the Center wrote on its Facebook page.

In other words, the Women’s Center did everything it could to provide a safe space — and a “mind spa” — for pro-choice students.

Scratch the surface of many — if not most — large-scale leftist campus protests, and you’ll find allied faculty members and administrators hovering, Melissa Click–like, in their midst. Indeed, many of them view encouraging student activism as a core part of their job, especially at the various diversity-oriented “centers” scattered throughout most large campuses.

The contrast between the liberal and conservative student-activist experience is immense. Every rule and regulation is strictly enforced against conservatives. They often have to fight for space in empty classrooms, scratch and claw to free up tiny speaker budgets, and then face near-universal condemnation from professors and the various deans and other administrators who are theoretically employed to enhance all of student life, not just leftist life. In the meantime, the few conservative professors often remain huddled in their closets, terrified at the very thought of expressing support even for the most brave and principled student dissenter.

Leftist students, by contrast, enjoy willing and enthusiastic help at every stage of the activist process. Activism is seen as a key part of their education. When student activity budgets aren’t enough for cool speakers, academic departments will open their wallets. Administrators will waive enforcement of speech zones, ignore violations of codes of conduct, and turn a blind eye even to vandalism and intimidation. Social justice warriors gotta learn to war somewhere.

In the worst cases, administrators will organize and sometimes even lead student activism against other students, even to the point of violating the First Amendment. This enormous and obvious bias is one reason why it is easy to win lawsuits against universities. It’s also the reason why it’s difficult to find plaintiffs who are brave enough to stand against their school. How many people have the courage to alienate virtually every person with authority over their education and future career? Fear and intimidation trump the law, and free expression dies without a single loss in court.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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