Phi Beta Cons

Free Speech Wins at Boise State (after a fight)

College administrators are very slow learners when it comes to the First Amendment. In case after case where they have tried to clamp down on the freedom of students to advocate their views on important questions, they have lost. FIRE has been crushing speech codes, free speech zones, and other methods of quieting students who want to speak out for decades, and yet college administrators continue to try. Most recently, administrators at Boise State told pro-life students that they could not stage an anti-abortion event because it would have “controversial issues, specifically graphic pictures.” And we all know what a modern college administrator does when faced with the choice of allowing free speech or “protecting” fragile students who might be offended or “triggered” by those who oppose abortion. Boise State required the student group to post “warning signs” so others could steer clear, as if it were a sinkhole.

At Boise State, the students have won their case. The university will no longer require groups that want to protest abortion (or anything else) to go to the extra trouble of warning everyone on campus about the “dangerous” ideas they’re promoting. Read about it in this Washington Post piece.

The settlement will cost Boise State $20,000 for legal fees and an additional $100 for damages.

Although it shouldn’t matter legally, the university clearly has played a two-faced game when it comes to student protests. The administration was perfectly fine with events sponsored by leftist groups, not concerned about the possible impact on students who might be “triggered” by Planned Parenthood or other leftist organizations. The whole business of fretting about the feelings of people who disagree with some position needs to be jettisoned by college administrators. Dealing with opposing arguments is a crucial part of what colleges say they are so concerned about, namely developing “critical thinking” abilities. More simply, it’s part of growing up.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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