FIRE reports that the University of Nevada at Reno has repealed its policy of keeping free expression restricted to “free speech zones.” This opens up the entire campus for students to indulge in the luxury of their basic constitutional rights. Good news for Reno.
Still, the remaining prevalence of ”free speech zones” on campuses around the country is indicative of the way many administrators see free speech: as a pesky distraction, to be regulated and quarantined as much as possible.
Political correctness gets a huge share of the blame for the deplorable state of student rights at our nation’s colleges and universities. And it does deserve a heavy heaping of scorn. But an under-rated contributor to many of the problems in the academy are the self-interested tendencies of campus administrators. Universities are intent on maintaining good PR, and so administrators are rewarded for keeping controversies from flaring up. This creates an administrative selection effect in favor of careerist control-freaks who like to keep their ducks aligned in neat little rows, without having to deal with the messiness of individual freedom. When students engage in vituperative arguments and clash loudly on their most deeply held beliefs, they bring on headaches that administrators would rather not have to confront.
And so there is a natural urge for campus honchos try keep a lid on things–at the expense of the heated debate and vigorous dialogue that are at the heart of any sound liberal education.