Phi Beta Cons

The Disappearing Debate

An article in the Daily Princetonian this lovely cool morning begins: “The debate over free speech on colleges campuses has, in large part, come and gone.”
Pardon?
Reading just a bit further, it becomes clear that the student journalist, Chip McCorkle, has written his entire survey of the free speech debate on America’s campuses under the wayward impression that the whole darn thing has been about students’ right to use swear words in class discussion. “Students speak freely at Princeton,” the article goes, “and faculty who use obscenities in class are not questioned.”
At Princeton, McCorkle says, “attitudes are accepting of the diversity of speech and, as outlined in the ‘Rights, Rules, Responsibilities’ booklet given to all members of the University community, University policy protects freedom of speech.”
Of course, that is not true. A Christian student group was long denied recognition by the university because of a disagreement in message. The university has floated plans to curb the freedom of religious association. And FIRE has a summary of the school’s speech restrictions, including the ones referenced in the article. Even the New Jersey division of the ACLU has given Princeton an ‘F’ for bans on computer-based political speech.
And, of course, the right of United States military recruiters to stand on those vaunted patches of south Jersey grass is not very widely respected at all.
But enough about that–they’re cursing up a storm at Princeton and everyone seems to be O.K. with that. Debate closed; hugs for all as the Tigers revel in their tolerance. Just take heed of the article’s last words, because, while there is no free speech problem at Princeton, “it really depends.”

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