Is the Price Tag of Security Simply an “Accepted” Way to Censor Free Speech?

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January 25, 2018 by gregrabidoux2013

shapiro uconn campus

Last night one of my old alma maters, the University of Connecticut (UCONN) played host to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Now, Mr. Shapiro, who will never be confused with say some fire-breathing, far right fanatic offered his take on a number of contemporary, divisive issues. Immigration (we need less not more), Russian Collusion (there is no evidence of any collusion, never will be), Sanctuary cities (only ones getting protection are MS-13 gang members and criminals), Government shutdown (no way to make policy).

Certainly, not overwhelmingly popular stances and I can see where there would be and is plenty of room for differences of opinion.

On the other hand, access to his speech was restricted to a small auditorium which housed a maximum of 500 seats all of which were filled. This for a campus of well over 25,000 students. reportedly, several hundred more students were denied access and non-students (though residents of CT, were not allowed to attend even when there were seats available). Since it is a tax-payer supported, public university, campus speakers are nearly, always open to the public-at-large.

Now, while UCONN and UC-Berkeley both share a U and a C, they won’t be confused for each other, both for their politics and activism. But, they do share something else-being part of  a growing trend of state and public universities and colleges who are using the real or simply perceived threat of violent protests and anti-free speech sentiment to either flatly refuse truly diverse speakers or restrict their access as to marginalize their views and supporters. UC-Berkely, NYU, USC, UCLA, Penn State, UNC, UT-Austin, UMASS, the list goes on and on.

shapiro uc-berkeley protests

Classes must have let out early.

In short, if you are offended by even the thought of having to hear an opposing view or even know that somewhere at some point there may be a speaker in campus with whom you disagree then  you are empowered even encouarged to shut him or her down with a pre-emptive threat of violence and “outrage.”

If, that doesn’t work then university officials citing security concerns can quarantine quarrelsome and controversial (or even simply those not in the majority) speakers far, far away from your safe, insulated and harmonious “life-bubble.

UCONN even made sure that their Husky students circa 2018 were aware that if “anyone is offended by or concerned by or has feelings of confusion or hurtful thoughts due to the presence of speaker Mr. Shapiro,” then they should simply make use of the many diversity and counseling services available to them on campus. There were trauma teams on stand by if students had panic attacks and extreme anxiety.

In other words, did the mean and disagreeable Mr. Shapiro say something that hurt your feelings? Challenged your world view of things? Did he not fully embrace your personal sentiments on every issue of the day? Then, please, accept our apologies, our free counseling and therapy and here, have a cookie on the way out. There, that ought to prepare you for the real world of ISIS, N. Korea and the global job market.

shapiro at uconn

Will his views on DACA really cause students trauma and necessitate counseling and therapy?

Now, let’s exhale for a moment and consider what the supposed and traditional role of a university a place of academics has always been to its students. A marketplace of ideas, a place where students can and should explore a diversity of views, perspectives and choices. A place where you can and should challenge your mind, your world views by engaging in civil, respectful discourse with fellow students, faculty and invited guests and speakers alike.

Tell me, does a sword get forged into tungsten steel by the sweet sonnets of sameness or by the heat of an unforgiving fire?

Listen, whether the speaker is Ben Shapiro or say, Anita Hill, who by the way was a recent UCONN invitee and was granted a large auditorium open to the public, the rules should and must be the same. But what seems to be occurring on large and small universities across our nation is that well organized protests groups, often willing to and engaging in violence like the Antifas, simply shut-down any and all forms of diverse speakers, scholars and thinkers. All in the name of protecting diversity of course.

antifa terror group violence

Why would those against fascism choose to wear black masks to disguise their identity?

Such violence or even the threat of violence in response to fellow humans expressing themselves with words then either forces or in some case conveniently allows university leaders to cite the cost of undertaking security and voila, no more having to hear views other than your own.

I have heard students at various campuses argue, in effect, that “they” pay too much for tuition to have to “put up” with offensive speakers they don’t want on “their” campus. While, in most cases it may be their parents or Fannie Mae footing the bill, I get it. Sort of like knowing what you want to buy, going into a store and still having to put up with that pushy, abrasive vacuum salesperson. Geez, who wants that?

Of course, there is where my concern lies. Rather than being taught to keep an open, ever growing mind where learning is truly a priority, are universities signaling that this once noble endeavor is nonsense? Are universities really saying, “hey, come here, and we will protect, insulate and reinforce your already pre-conceived world view at all costs?” Your mind and sense of self will never be forced to grow, stretch, accept challenges or be questioned. Ever.

There. Isn’t that better? If that offended any of you we have complimentary counseling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I am no protector of bullies and I have and certainly will always be an advocate of diversity. However, I get real nervous when views, even those I may agree with, are forced fed to all or entombed within a wall of intolerance, fear and violence. Sorry, but I still believe that to have the courage of your convictions is to allow, even encourage others to disagree. I mean, the UCONN Husky women’s basketball team could simply “say” they are the best and never be forced to prove it in the arena of competition but I bet it means a lot more to them when they have to actually compete and then they beat their opponents fair and square. UCONN 93, Memphis 36. Sorry, Memphis.

shapiro uconn women

Why just say it when you can go and prove it?

No, the greatest threat to free speech and the wonderful benefits which flow therefrom is not from having to hear views other than your own. It is from censorship due to real or perceived threats from groups who are intolerant of actual diversity of thought and perspective.

And I grow increasingly concerned that we are, with perhaps, the best of intentions, raising and cultivating the next generation of leaders to be absolutely ill-equipped to deal with or positively confront all forms of bullies.

Maybe it is time to burst that “life-bubble” after all. before it’s too late.

Daily Growl Tiger

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23 thoughts on “Is the Price Tag of Security Simply an “Accepted” Way to Censor Free Speech?

  1. JCE says:

    I once heard a comedian, who is about my age, liken his childhood to being raised “like a raccoon in a dumpster.” I laughed because I could relate; the freedom afforded to a child of the 1970’s would have today’s Millennial parent calling CPS before the first non-car-seated ride up the street. Our parents didn’t have to read books about how to “instill grit” in their children, it was an unavoidable byproduct of the time. But the overly-sensitive, safe-space craving, I’ve-been-triggered college kids of today are mostly the offspring of my Gen X counterparts. So what the hell happened? Did we raise them in a bubble because our childhood was so unflinching? Did we overcompensate for our own mom’s “go away so I can enjoy my Tab and Virginia Slims” attitude toward us? I want to pin the blame on someone, something… but am left scratching my head. The easiest thing would probably be to fault technology for fostering little narcissists; without real problems to fret about, social media addicted undergrads are living vicariously through 6th-hand accounts of sexism, racism and cultural appropriation… and now merely broadcasting their own intolerance in the name of “social justice.” But it’s not just about placing blame, it’s about stemming this tide of this unearned self-righteousness. But how?

  2. Mike H. says:

    I can’t say that I agree that Shapiro’s appearance at UCONN counts as a serious affront to any principles of free speech. He was allowed to speak and I am not certain based on this blog entry or other reading I have done about the story that the location of his speech was intentionally chosen to prevent anything. Anita Hill may have gotten a better venue, but Ben Shapiro is nowhere close to being on the same “well known public figure” level as Ms. Hill. Nothing seems to have been done intentionally other than security measures being put in place like bag checks and the like. It seems like the small auditorium was the location the College Republicans booked for the speech, not something it was moved to after the fact, but I will concede this point if evidence to the contrary exists. He spoke, nothing happened, and he left. Sure some were left out of the speech venue, but that is the way of things. Thousands were apparently left without a seat when Donald Trump visited Valdosta State, but I would hate to know people were considering us anti-free speech because not everyone could get a seat. Interestingly, we had the opposite problem when Dr. Ben Carson came to speak and next to no students were able to get seats to the event because the public took them all. I think that is also a problem for hosting a speaker on campus.

    I will admit, I don’t admire Ben Shapiro and I am at least one person who thinks he is a far-right firebrand with little to no redeeming values. However, I am not necessarily opposed to him coming to speak if that’s who the College Republicans want to have, I’d just warn them to pick a better venue when booking a spot. All speakers like him are is merely political entertainment on the order of the WWE. While I think that it ultimately does the academy no favors to host polemicists, especially when speaking outside their fields of academic expertise, I don’t think universities need to ban them as a matter of course. I do think that the Richard Spencers and ISIS members of the world are a bridge too far for me. There are lines to be drawn in this debate and they won’t always be neat and easy to identify. There also seems to be a lot of “free speech for me, but not for thee” types about who are only for controversial speakers when it’s a controversial opinion they happen to agree with. Sadly some of those who would try to run Shapiro out of town would also gladly welcome a Ward Churchill or Bill Ayers, while some who defend Shapiro would just as quickly try to run Ward Churchill out of town. I primarily just shake my head and wonder what either really have to offer a university. I don’t think it is a whole lot, even if I still don’t think it’s something we should necessarily try to stop from happening. Not everything in campus life needs to be high-minded and academic. We can have entertainment on campus I suppose, even if I think it is terrible.

    Shapiro can come and speak and both sides can engage in their political theater and score points for their sides. However, I definitely do not think we should hold up Ben Shapiro and others as the “civil respectful discourse” lauded in the blog post. I’d argue that his speeches and writings are the exact opposite of that. It is hard for me figure out how the author of quotes such as “If you pay tuition, you’re sponsoring the militant homosexual agenda. If you pay taxes, you’re sponsoring the militant homosexual agenda. If your child majors in English, you’re sponsoring the militant homosexual agenda. Tell Billy to major in math.” (Shapiro, 2003 ) as someone who upholds such lofty ideals. Or even someone who suggested that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” (Shapiro, 2010) If that is worthy high minded discourse, then I would hate to see what low-brow discourse looks like.

    Shapiro, B. (2003) Militant gay English on the rise. Retrieved 1/26/18 from https://townhall.com/columnists/benshapiro/2003/08/20/militant-gay-english-on-the-rise-n1334827
    Shapiro B. (2010, Sep 27) Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue. #settlementsrock [Tweet]. Retrieved 1/26/18 from https://twitter.com/benshapiro/status/25712847277?lang=en

  3. Alicia H says:

    I have heard Ben Shapiro speak and he is nothing compared to even more far right speaks and honestly, radical leftist idiots. He at least makes you think. The real threat to free speech today is NOT conservatives but antifas who think they and only they know what people should think, do and say. Violence is never the answer against speech. And I think universities like UCONN do try and stop audiences from hearing Shapiro or Milo Y. or Ann Coulter because of threats from the left. Today students are the most intolerant of anyone.

  4. Trey L says:

    I gotta agree here, Shapiro is reasonable and rational compared to complete leftists morons like that Ashley Judd or Madonna or any Hollywood celebrity but the antifas are the real threat to free speech.

  5. Bill G H says:

    So sick of being lectured at by hypocritical Hollywood types. Now, that’s who the antifas should bash.

  6. Canesta says:

    Free speech is not contingent on all parties agreeing to the same things, or corroborating on the same line of thought. Opening up our world views, and being able to hear each other out despite our differences, is important to embracing a more diversified world.

  7. Jonathan Klusmeyer says:

    I think that our modern idea of what a university “was always supposed to be” is more of a recent history than one with deep roots. The idea that colleges were supposed to promote new ideas and challenge their students to accept alternate views came following the 1960s. Prior to that, universities were allowed to control every aspect of the lives of students through the concept known as “in locos parentis,” or “in place of parents.” This concept was even held a legal standing:

    “College authorities stand in loco parentis concerning the physical and moral welfare, and mental training of the pupils, and we are unable to see why to that end they may not make any rule or regulation for the government, or betterment of their pupils that a parent could for the same purpose. Whether the rules or regulations are wise, or their aims worthy, is a matter left solely to the discretion of the authorities, or parents as the case may be, and in the exercise of that discretion, the courts are not disposed to interfere, unless the rules and aims are unlawful, or against public policy.” (Gott v. Berea College, 1913, p. 379).

    Universities were very much in control of what students were allowed to see and hear…then came the backlash of the 1960s and the counter culture movement. Until recently, you are absolutely correct to say that universities in the U.S. were designed, following the 60’s, to allow for free exchange of ideas. Today, however, ideas are offensive…and if you don’t agree with me, well then you clearly are a bigot…you cannot refute me calling you a bigot either, because that would involve you talking to me, and I don’t talk to bigots…which you clearly are…because I said so.

    Maybe in loco parentis wasn’t that bad of a concept. Control the students and guide them in a way that the board of governors chooses. It has become rather clear that these kiddos fresh out of high school have generally not developed their ability to reason and control their own emotions. (I should have put a trigger warning up before I said that so sensitive souls could have skipped that part and stayed in their safe place). For the life of me, I cannot figure out how these Antifa kids came up with the idea that creating violence to stop free speech is “anti-fascist.” Sounds a whole lot like the brown shirts of the Third Reich to me (yes, yes, we shouldn’t compare Americans to Nazis…but given the opportunity, even Americans can have pure hate in their hearts). Maybe it was a misunderstanding they came to during one of their weekly meetings in their mother’s basement.

    Really, what it all boils down to is that the Bill of Rights were guaranteed protections from the government and equal protection under the law. Ben should be granted the same accommodations as any other speaker at a tax-payer funded institution.

  8. Darryl Nettles says:

    Yes, I understand the whole view that a diversity of perspectives, choices, and views is what the modern American young and educated should be given the opportunity to partake of, if they so choose to do. Unfortunately, I came across an article from last summer that is discussing how kids from K-12 are quoting Trump to bully/harass classmates. It has become a thing of, if the president can say those things, why can’t they? The post-election bullying has targeted Asian, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Latino, and Black students. This comprehensive collection of data has recorded more than 50 recorded incidents over 26 states, these students have utilized Trump’s messages or name to bully or abuse classmates (Samaha, 2017). What kind of society are we creating – one that says it is now acceptable to be a bully? In summary, no one is afraid of the Big, Bad Bully.

    References:

    Albert Samaha, Mike Hayes, Talal Ansari. (2017, June 6). Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It. Retrieved February 08, 2018, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/albertsamaha/kids-are-quoting-trump-to-bully-their-classmates?utm_term=.jfrNRyvVM#.ngObVEgqR

  9. Melissa Tolbert says:

    I find this an interesting post and quite frankly am so glad someone has put this in writing. I know you are not the first but it just shows the entitlement that today’s youth have. Parents, what the crap are you teaching your children?! Diversity is what makes our country great. Free speech, debate, and the ability to agree to disagree. Life is not a bed of roses and this generation of unlawful protests, destruction of property and hurt feelings must be stopped. By the way, why are no charges being brought against those who are destroying property? I think there needs to be a course in college that is titled “Suck it up, Buttercup”. This is the sweetest way I can say it needs to be a crash course in reality. I remember the generations of true grit and audacity and strength and courage who have shaped this nation. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, they all are rolling in their graves to see this generation tearing down the history of struggle and progress they all encumbered and made to make things better for today’s generation. We now have entitlement and even more hate groups than back then. I believe in inclusion and equal rights. But, I also believe in our laws and consequences which are being pushed aside for the sake of hurting someones feelings. We need more enforcement and change has to happen. Universities need to expel students who participate in the criminal acts. These are the situations that are really infringing on others rights.

  10. Levi B. says:

    Universities were once bastions of critical thinking, debate, and free speech. But now it would seem that the only speech that is free is the speech that fits with the far-left agenda. Screeching liberal students will burn down their own school, as in Berkeley, to silence someone they disagree with. Universities have really let students down by not teaching them the appropriate way in which to debate your opinion without Molotov cocktails and broken windows. Speech that is against their ideology is labeled as “hate speech.” You will never solve a problem or even begin to understand another’s point of view if you scream unintelligibly over them. Free speech is dying, and I am truly terrified for the day when you cannot feel free to voice your opinion as a right. We need to be able to come to the table and respectfully listen and debate our differences.

  11. Kenya D says:

    Let me start by saying this blog was very interesting to read! Especially since it included an example including basketball which is something I hold near to my heart. I could not agree more. Sheltering our younger generation(s) from opposing opinions does not teach them to deal with differences. Also, it does not prepare them to positively deal with conflict when they are forced to deal with it. Having a public university as the main example was brilliant because it eliminated any rules or accepted stipulation from being a defense as to why UCONN decided to act like they did.

    Having conflict is human nature and in my opinion necessary because with it comes growth. We can read in textbooks how to handle conflict, but being placed in the situation is the best teacher. Textbook examples and real-life example are hot and cold to one another. Sheltering a person from real-life conflicts stunts their growth and disallows them proper maturity. We are never going to always agree with one another and we should paint situations up as if we will.

    • Mike H. says:

      I’m still confused as to what UCONN specifically did as a public university that was bad. They did not ban Ben Shapiro. Students tried to prevent him from speaking and were unsuccessful. He spoke in the auditorium that, as I understand it, the College Republican group originally booked him in. The only thing I can think of as a slip-up is maybe not offering tickets to the public? I can see security concerns for a controversial speaker, but they still should have offered at least a portion of the tickets to the public. Ultimately, Shapiro was allowed to speak and the protest was allowed to go on. Seems like a textbook example of free speech at work in my book.

  12. Heather Pence says:

    We have allowed today’s generations to have an “it’s all about me” mentality and when its not all about me, protests are always the answer. Peaceful protests are one thing but more and more often we see the protests turn violent. I have yet to figure out how burning a car, throwing urine, etc gets one’s point across, but I digress. Security must be in place but always providing a “safe zone” for ones feelings is not the answer.

    • Kara Lowther says:

      I totally agree with you here! I am all for peaceful protests, but the violence that sometimes accompanies a hot subject is unacceptable.

  13. Daniel Turknett says:

    Ben Shapiro actually attempted to speak at the University of Florida (my undergrad). Our president, Dr. Fuchs, actually canceled the show due threats. Since his views are so extreme, the liberal university wanted nothing to do with it. To me, we live in a country where people are free to have their own beliefs, no matter how far fetched they may seem. With that comes the power to protest. The protest was so successful that UF didn’t allow him to speak anymore.

  14. GMoss says:

    Freedom of speech supports the right to express opinions, thoughts and ideas without censorship. However, like most everything, that right can be abused by those with ill intentions and those who use it as a shield to incite violence, create chaos, and to carry out their own selfish agendas. There is opposition to almost everything nowadays. So much so, it’s hard to identify progress.

  15. Yazid Bawazir says:

    Freedom of speech in the USA is not absolute without limitation, and the forms that these restrictions are often different in their interpretation. Very after the overlapping of cultures, and the whole world became a small village, what is the officer of freedom of speech?!

  16. Brent Mayes says:

    I believe in the right of free speech. I believe people like Ben Shapiro has the right to freely speak at a college or university and share his message. Republicans, Democrats, and any other party should all unify in the sense that we have freedom of speech.

    I understand some people may not want to have someone speak that they do not agree with personally. However, I have taught courses in persuasion, argumentation, and various other communication-based courses. One of the core principles of any argumentative techniques is learning both sides of an issue. You are charged to know your opponent’s side better than he/she does even though you have no agreement with it.

    The purpose here is to understand the other side. Weigh it against your beliefs. It may make your stance stronger. Or, you may learn elements that may drive you to further thought or consideration. Being open to learning about opposing sides is not weakness or annoyance. Rather, it is positioning yourself to gain wisdom. It should not be dismissed and overlooked because of close-mindedness.

    • Mike H. says:

      There’s a fine line between knowing the arguments of those you disagree with and giving them a platform. I do think it is important to understand people I disagree with. I do not think I need to give them a platform and payment from a publicly funded institution to speak their minds in order to do so.

      Should the Astronomy or Geosciences department be required to book an auditorium on campus so that flat-earth folks can be understood? I think we can understand that which we disagree with without having to give it a platform.

      If I want to understand Ben Shapiro, he has 114,000 tweets, countless TV, Radio, Magazine, and YouTube appearances and at least 9 books worth of context. What else will giving him one more stage offer our understanding that the rest cannot?

  17. James Barnes says:

    This reminds me of that bit George Carlin said about environmentalists just wanting to have a safe place to drive their Volvo. While I do not entirely agree with that statement, I do admit there is often a selfish impetus at the root of outraged preemptive protests. I think our society has civil engineered people to reject anything that threatens their safe little environments (life-bubble was a good term). I absolutely think universities are suppressing free speech when they say the security requirements are too much to have a speaker come. It also raises flags when a school places restrictions on a speaker, yet most anyone can come to an academic symposium.

    I wonder how students are going to be prepared for the real world if they cannot handle a differing viewpoint in the relative safety of an academic setting. They may very well find themselves in a workplace culture that encourages ideas they disagree with. Censorship, cry rooms, therapy dogs, and platitudes unfortunately do not pay bills. I worry that this overprotective treatment of adults is having a psychologically regressive effect on people. How long before we face a crisis with large portions of the next generation not wanting to go out and work because things are tough? I think universities should be teaching critical thinking, not how to criticize alternative viewpoints.

  18. lydia harvey says:

    In my opinion universities are supposed to push you out of your comfort zone. Through my time at three different schools have decided it is a place away from your parents to grow and become the person you want to be, not your parents. It is also supposed to be a place where you start to fend for yourself.
    As for the Husky basketball team they can play and play in their conference and annihilate everyone in their path, but when it comes down to March Madness you really see who the teams are that are willing to go out of their comfort zones and win. Colleges shouldn’t have to babysit or spare feelings of others but, that’s just my opinion.

  19. Melany says:

    I have never understood, and will never understand why people can’t just respect each other and their opinions. We are all entitled to our own opinions. It doesn’t mean mine is better than yours or vice versa. Just allow someone to come in and speak and listen, and remain open minded. If you want to rebuttal, do so with respect and integrity. Counseling because you don’t agree with someone? Give me a break.

  20. Ebony B says:

    There is power in keeping an open mind. What kind of world would we live in if we all had the same thoughts and ideas. Those that should be upset are those who paid tuition and wasn’t allowed to see him due to the restrictions.

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