For free speech at Macalester, the Devil is in the details

Why Now is the time to consider owning gold
Berkeley Free Speech Movement

The president of Macalester College’s free speech manifesto simply reinforces the determination to preserve the campus’ Leftist intellectual monoculture.

One wonders how many of the jubilant Berkeley students who bought into 1964’s Free Speech Movement would be shocked by today’s censorship. Probably “none.” It was always about Leftist re-education.[/caption]

At PJ Media, you can read about a lawsuit that a free speech organization has launched against the University of Michigan (which is a public university). As I read it, Michigan’s rule is that all campus speech is judged by its subjective effect on the most sensitive flower on campus — and we all know that those sensitive flowers are invariably hard Leftists:

As the lawsuit says, the university has created an “elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress and punish speech other students deem ‘demeaning,’ ‘bothersome,’ or ‘hurtful’.” Yes, really: The student disciplinary code defines “harassment” as any “unwanted negative attention perceived as intimidating, demeaning, or bothersome to an individual” (emphasis added).

In other words, as the complaint says, “the most sensitive student on campus effectively dictates the terms under which others may speak.” Under this absurd but dangerous policy, a student expressing his positive opinion about Donald Trump could be considered “bothersome” to the many (or any of the) liberal students on campus.

It’s not better at private universities — except that they think they’re insulated from lawsuits because they’re private. Exhibit A is the the Macalester alumni magazine that I spirited away from my friend once I saw how the Macalester president, Brian Rosenberg, addressed the free speech issue. What’s fascinating is that Rosenberg pays lip service to the notion of free speech, only to make it clear that he will ban anyone who offends a student or promotes non-Progressive ideas.

To reach this end, Rosenberg establishes, repeatedly, that Macalester is a private campus, giving him a fair amount of leeway in making decisions about acceptable speech:

The nature of the question is different for public and private college campuses. Most public campuses are subject to the rules that govern public property and are therefore bound to a very expansive understanding of free speech. Private colleges are private property and have more latitude to establish, should they so choose, narrower limits on free speech. Put simply, a person’s free speech rights do not extend to the right to post a sign on the lawn of your home.

I agree that private colleges are subject to different speech constraints — and I suggest that, to make entirely clear Macalester’s status as a private college, Macalester should return any public monies it receives in whatever forum it receives them (student financial aid, department grants, etc.). I can’t find the numbers, but I suspect they’re significant.

Because Macalester is private, says Rosenberg, the only real constraint is “What is most likely to create an environment conducive to teaching and learning?” You won’t be surprised to learn that after several paragraphs about valuing free speech, and not allowing people to be too sensitive, he gets down to the nitty-gritty, which is that people are allowed to be as sensitive as they want, and he’ll protect them:

Here is what Macalester’s student and employee handbooks state on this subject: “Macalester College values the right to free speech and the open exchange of ideas and views in our learning environment….[ but] Any act that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably or substantially interfering with an individual’s safety and security by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or working environment will not be permitted.” This language is straightforward, though it is difficult to see how any statement could avoid all ambiguity. Words like unreasonably and substantially will mean different things to different people.

Rosenberg may think this language is easy to understand, with the only issue being whether something is “unreasonably” and “substantially” offensive, but I couldn’t help but notice that the core standard is still feelings. So it is that Rosenberg segues into the whole bit about swastikas and nooses:

A swastika marked on the entryway to a residence hall might not constitute a direct threat to any particular student, but it can be construed as a threat to Jewish students on campus; similarly, a noose hung from a tree outside a building can be construed as a threat to African American students. Such threats can make it more difficult for students to pursue their studies and may therefore be declared impermissible. While it is true that students on some campuses have gone too far in their definitions of what is threatening, it is also true that some observers have been too dismissive of the potential for expression of such things as overt racism, sexism, or homophobia to interfere with a student’s pursuit of an education.

In the above paragraph, even as Rosenberg concedes that feelings have gotten out of hand in some places, he still says feelings control allowable speech. Even as he implies to check-writing parents and alumni that he won’t go as crazy as Yale or Michigan or the Claremont Colleges or Missouri, he is still saying that anything that hurts someone’s feelings is forbidden. That’s not what free speech is about. Free speech is exposing people to ideas that are tough and that challenge their bubble. The line should be explicitly threatening material, such as “we intended to kill all [fill in the blanks],” or “when you leave this auditorium, go to the president’s office and set it on fire.” Instead, Rosenberg has pretty much said straight out that no one on campus can challenge the scientifically completely unproven orthodoxy about gender transformations.

Rosenberg makes it clear too that, in addition to banning anything that might hurt someone’s feelings, he’s also free to ban anything he deems “provocative”:

Private colleges have an educational obligation to be expansive in their invitations to and tolerance of outside speakers, but not an obligation to permit anyone to speak, particularly when financial costs are involved. Distinctions should be based not on the views of the speaker, but on the quality and seriousness of the speaker, as judged by reasonable academic standards. A biology department is not obligated to allow a creationist a platform if in its professional view the claims of the speaker do not hold up to rigorous scientific investigation. A political science department is not obligated to provide a platform for a mere provocateur. These distinctions of course involve making informed, qualitative judgments, but that is precisely what the faculty, staff, and students at a college are expected to do every day.

Keep in mind as you read the above that all conservatives who support American policies that were normative just a decade ago are considered “provocateurs” to Progressives:

[W]ould-be brownshirts let the mask slip when they disrupted and attempted to shout down a speaker at the City University of New York School of Law. At the invitation of CUNY Law’s Federalist Society chapter, South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman arrived on campus to discuss not transgender rights, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, immigration reform, police misconduct or any other hot-button issue, but “The Importance of Free Speech on Campus,” as he had done without incident at many other law schools.

Incredibly, though, Blackman was effectively prevented from delivering his talk on March 29 at the school. The tech-savvy professor managed to capture most of the protest on video and with photos.

[snip]

[T]he numerous signs waved by the protesters contained such slogans as “Rule of Law = White Supremacy” and “The First Amendment is Not a Licence [sic] to Dehumanize Marginalized People.” Students shouted “Legal objectivity is a myth” and “F – – k the law.” CUNY Law’s National Lawyers Guild chapter tweeted that “free speech” activists are “not welcome at our PUBLIC INTEREST school.” Is this the face of “social justice”?

Second, Blackman is the antithesis of a lightning rod or demagogue. He is a prolific legal scholar, writing mainly in the area of constitutional law. Though politically right of center, he is more libertarian than conservative. He signed the Originalists Against Trump statement prior to the 2016 election, is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and has coauthored books and articles with Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, a noted libertarian.

He is not deliberately confrontational but mild-mannered, soft-spoken and unfailingly polite.

At UC Berkeley last year, the campus made it almost impossible for Ben Shapiro, who is not a poseur or provocateur, but who advocates traditional social and political positions, to speak. Cal scheduled his speech for times no students were available, relocated it to a venue that no one could reach, and finally announced that the protests it anticipated when he tried to speak would be so expensive that the Berkeley College Republicans who were sponsoring the talk would need to pay $15,000 in security fees. Mind you, the Republicans were not violent; they were being forced to pay for the violent Proggies that Cal had already encouraged when Milo came to town. (You can read more about the shenanigans at Cal here.)

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What the above means is that, when Macalester’s President Rosenberg states that he will not allow students to use protests to silence speakers, he’s just blowing smoke. Between protecting the feelz of his Leftist student body and ensuring that nobody “provocative” gets onto his private campus, you can be assured that his students won’t be shouting down any of the speakers who pass through Macalester. Indeed, scanning speakers for Fall 2016 through Spring 2018 at Macalester, you’ll find that 100% of them meet the Progressive metric. Here’s a sampling:

Conjuring Queer Histories: The Troubling Gender Performances of Bill Tilden

This discussion addresses the challenges of locating queer expression in traditional sources for historical inquiry. To explore methods that researchers can deploy to illuminate and interrogate experiences that have been erased from archives and public memory, I complicate historical readings of the athleticism of tennis champion Bill Tilden, interpreting his celebrity and playing style as products of his existence outside normative gender categories in the 1920s, rather than as covers for his sexual desires. I contend that Tilden defied contemporary expectations that bourgeois white men should eventually limit their partivipation [sic] in leisure and settle down with marriage and stable capitalist production, while using atheltic [sic] movement to bridge gender categories in the creation of his own “artistic” self-expression. Using the queer gender performances of Tilden as a case study, this discussion confronts the public manifestatiosn [sic] of sexual desire and gauges the risks of speculationa nd presentism [sic] when assessing queer historical actors.

[snip]

Conversations About Our Scholarly Lives

Duchess Harris, American Studies, will present “Teaching in the Age of the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Higher education, as we all know, is also emotionally and intellectually taxing work. So as much as I’d like to tell you that I attended pedagogy workshops every month during my 2013-2014 sabbatical, I can’t. Actually, I slept. A lot. Then, on August 9, 2014, I woke up. As I turned on the news that Saturday and learned of Michael Brown’s death, I was terrified to think of the anger, confusion, pain, and ignorance I might face in the classroom at the start of the semester. I hurt for Michael Brown, for his family, and for my students. I returned to three weeks after his shooting and I had a total of 40 students. Not one had talked about Contemporary U.S. race relations in an academic setting in high school. How would students respond to such a horrific event, and what could I do to be the best teacher that I possibly could be? This question inspired me to write a text about the Black Lives Matter movement. All faculty welcome. Lunch will be provided.

[snip]

SPEAK! and American Studies present: From the Young Lords to Black Lives Matter: Afro-Latinx Identity and Consciousness

With the rise of Black Lives Matter, the spirit and energy of the Black Power movement continues a history of civil rights movement in our nation. The struggle and confrontation to address police brutality, criminal justice system and astronomic rates of mass incarceration draw a direct line between Black Lives Matter, Black Panthers, Young Lords and other similar movements.

Despite the perception of Black Power and how Blackness is defined, many Afro-Boricua people, in the front lines of such movements, are caught in the construction of race and the question, Who is Black?

Our speakers include:

Rosa Clemente, hip hop journalist, community activist, 2008 Green Party Vice Presidential candidate, and currently completing her Ph.D at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Dr. Jacqueline Lazú, Associate Dean & Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages, DePaul University Chicago

Denise Oliver-Velez, feminist, activist, former Young Lords Party, Black Panther Party Member, and currently an adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at SUNY New Paltz

This event is cosponsored by American Studies, Lealtad-Suzuki Center, Title IX/Equity, Campus Activities and Operations, Office of the President, History Department, Educational Studies Department, Latin American Studies Department, Adelante!, Black Liberation Action Committee, and Caribbean Student Association.

[snip]

Come hear Erick Lyle curator and editor of “Streetopia”

After San Francisco’s new mayor announced imminent plans to “clean up” downtown with a new corporate “dot com corridor” and arts district–featuring the new headquarters of Twitter and Burning Man— curators Erick Lyle, Chris Johanson, and Kal Spelletich brought over one hundred artists and activists together with neighborhood residents fearing displacement to consider Utopian aspirations and to plot alternate futures for the city. Opening in May 2012 at the Luggage Store Gallery, the resulting exhibition Streetopia was a massive anti-gentrification art fair that took place in venues throughout the city. For five weeks, Streetopia featured daily free talks, performances, and skillshares [sic] while operating a free community kitchen out of the gallery. More info: here.
Featuring work by Swoon, Rebecca Solnit, Chris Kraus, Sarah Schulman, Emory Douglass, Chris Johanson, Sam Green, Daphne Gottlieb, James Tracey, Amy Franceschini and Antonio Roman-Alcala, AC Thompson, Renny Pritikin, Jesse Drew, V. Vale, Roxy Monoxide, Isaac Jackson, Amos Gregory, The Water Underground, Marshall Weber, Kal Spelletich, Eve Ekman, Joey Alone. Interviews with Sy Wagon, Ivy Jeanne McClelland, and Ernest Callenbach. Art by Ryder Cooley, Xara Thustra, Barry McGee, Emory Douglas, Rigo 23, Monica Canilao, Mona Caron, Tim Kerr, Bill Daniel, Finley Coyl, Micah Bazant, Dan Nicoletta, Mark Ellinger, Kyle Ranson, Jo Jackson, Maya Hayuk, Sarah Lewison, and many, many more!!!
Sponsored by Media and Cultural Studies Toast and Jam Series, Environmental Studies, Art, and others.

[snip]

Senator Al Franken at Mac

Senator Al Franken is coming to Macalester on Monday, October 17th, 7PM in JBD! Doors open at 6:30 so come early to get a good spot. Franken is committed to the issues that young voters care about and we need to make sure YOU make your voice heard on Election Day! Senator Franken will speak abot [sic] the election and conduct a Q&A from the audience.

There will also be opportunities to get involved and/or register to vote at the event!

[snip]

The Palestinian Israeli Conflict: Where are we headed?

Join Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights in welcoming Jeff Halper, co-founder of Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD), Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Macalester alum of 1968. Halper will be talking about his newly published book titled: War Against the People, a global phenomenon of ‘Palestine-ization’.

[snip]

Kathleen Bachynski – The Ethical Practice of Public Health: Why Is Collecting Data On Gun Violence So Hard, And What Are We Missing?

[snip]

LCB Presents: Derrek Kayongo

Derreck Kayongo is the current CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the founder of the Global Soap Project. The project recycles partially used and discarded bars of soap from hotels and redistributes them to people in need across the world. In 2011, Derreck was featured on CNN Heroes for his work in environmental sustainability and global health.

[snip]

Lunch with Professor Marcos Ortega: Machismo and the Man Box

Consent is Mac and the Health and Wellness Center are sponsoring a lunch with Macalester Biology professor, Marcos Ortega. Professor Ortega will facilitate a discussion that addresses machismo, and what is referred to as “the man box.” “The Man Box” implies a rigid set of expectations, perceptions, and behaviors of what is “manly” behavior. Because no man perfectly fits the description, all men are limited by hegemonic masculinity through policing of behaviors seen as “violations” (Edwards & Jones, 2009). Registration is limited, so please sign up using the Google Form link in the Daily Piper/HWC homepage. Lunch from Boca Chica will be served.

[snip]

Refugee Policy in 2017 talk by Liza Lieberman

WELCOME THE STRANGER. PROTECT THE REFUGEE. Hear speaker Liza Lieberman, Director of Advocacy and Outreach at HIAS (the oldest international migration and refugee resettlement agency in the U.S.)

[snip]

Islamophobia and the Challenge to Civic Life in America

Speakers:Ahmed Samatar, Khaldoun Samman, and Jacob Bessen ’17

[snip]

LCB Spring Speaker: Nikki Giovanni

Lectures Coordination Board of MCSG has secured Nikki Giovanni as their 2017 spring speaker. Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator.

[snip]

Celebrating Women’s History Month-Violence on the Land and Our Bodies: The Impact of the Oil Industry on Indigenous Women

SPEAK! Series, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and American Studies Welcomes

Winona LaDuke

Native American Activist, Environmentalist, and Former Green Party Vice Presidential Candidate Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe) is an internationally renowned Native American activist and advocate for environmental, women’s, and children’s rights. She is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, a reservation-based land acquisition, environmental advocacy, and cultural organization. She is also founder and co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network and Honor the Earth with the Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (the Indigo Girls). This organization works primarily on environmental and energy policy issues. Through this work, she is involved in national renewable energy strategies for the new millennium. This organization also supports smaller, Native American organizations through re-granting for environmental project.

A graduate of Harvard and Antioch University, she has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She is the author of six books including: All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (South End Press); the novel, Last Standing Woman, (in which she chronicles a Native American reservation and its people’s struggle to restore their culture); a non-fiction children’s book In the Sugarbush; The Winona LaDuke Reader (a twenty-year collection of her writing, journalism, speeches, testimony, and poetry), Recovering the Sacred, and her most recent book; The LaDuke Chronicles.

LaDuke is the mother of six children, and lives with her family on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

[snip]

Rob Wallace: Big Farms Make Big Flu (and Ebola and Zika)

In this lecture, evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace tracks the way influenza and other deadly pathogens are emerging out of an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations. This work integrates science and political economy into a new understanding of infectious diseases. Co-sponsored by Community and Global Health Concentration and Environmental Studies.

[snip]

Palestine Colloquium

MacSUPER hosts our first campus-wide colloquium [sic] aimed to complicate US American perspectives on Palestine and Palestinians. We believe such complication is necessary because of United States’ unilateral, political and financial support of Israel, which perpetuates a particular discourse and way of considering Israeli occupation of Palestine. We have professors and speakers traveling from across the nation presenting their scholarship to offer critical engagement with this topic. See the Facebook event and academic deparment [sic] coordinators for the day’s schedule and more information regarding the colloquium [sic].

[snip]

Kathi Weeks “Down with Love: Feminist Critique and the New Ideologies of Work”

The talk draws of 1970s feminist critiques of the ideologies of love and romance to develop a critique of the popular advice literature that directs employees to find love and happiness at work. The argument focuses on how, under heteropatriarchal capitalism, the ideology of romantic love is being harnessed not only to continue to assign domestic work to women but to recruit all waged workers into a more intimate relationship with work.

Kathi Weeks is Professor in the Program of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. She is the author of Constituting Feminist Subjects (1998) and The Problem with Work (2011).

[snip]

Michael Hardt “Where have all the leaders gone?”

We continue to witness each year the eruption of “leaderless” social movements. From North Africa and the Middle East to Europe, the Americas, and East Asia, movements have left journalists, political analysts, police forces, and governments disoriented and perplexed. Activists too have struggled to understand and evaluate the power and effectiveness of horizontal movements. Why have the movements, which express the needs and desires of so many, not been able to achieve lasting change and a more just society? Many assume that if only social movements could find new leaders they would return to their earlier glory and be able to sustain and achieve projects of social transformation and liberation. Where, they ask, are the new Martin Luther King Jr.s, Rudi Dutschkes, Patrice Lumumbas, and Stephen Bikos? Where have all the leaders gone?
In this lecture I will use examples from past theory and practice to situate and clarify some of the issues and alternatives involved in the organization of social movements today.
Michael Hardt is Professor of Literature at Duke University. He is the author of numerous books, including the Empire trilogy with Antonio Negri–Empire(2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth(2009)–as well as their most recent book Assembly (2017).

[snip]

Tel Aviv Night Clubs and West Bank Checkpoints: the Politics of Being Fabulous in the Holy Land

Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights and Macalester Queer Union present Sa’ed Atshan, Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. The talk will examine how Israelis and Palestinians deploy LGBTQ discourses as part of the conflict. The talk will be followed by an open reception in Weyerhaeuser Lounge for informal discussion and reflection. Light refreshments provided.

[snip]

Black Joy Is a Tool Against Oppression: Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds

The Black History Month Committee at Macalester College has invited Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds to give this year’s Keynote Address entitled “Black Joy Is a Tool Against Oppression.” “Dr. Levy-Pounds will speak about the importance of finding and cultivating black joy in the midst of fighting against oppression and fighting for the liberation of black people. She will use examples from black history that illustrate this point as well as share stories from her own experiences as a freedom fighter in the 21st Century.” Dr. Levy-Pounds is a civil rights attorney, former law professor, political activist, legal scholar, Minneapolis mayoral candidate for the 2017 election, and national expert on issues at the intersections of race, public policy, economic justice, public education, juvenile justice, and the criminal justice system. She previously served as a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas Law School for thirteen years and has won numerous awards pertaining to her work in law.

[snip]

Intersectional Masculinities Workshop

Join the Hamre Center for Health and Wellness and the Department of Multicultural Life for Intersectional Masculinities. This workshop is meant to move beyond conversations of toxic, cis masculinity towards discussing the intersection of race and gender identity. The workshop will be facilitated by Paul Ang and Malik Mitchell of the Aurora Center at the University of Minnesota. Lunch will be provided.

[snip]

Tomás Membreño Pérez

Learn from Tomás about labor rights, union organizing and the effects of Free Trade Agreements on small and medium agricultural producers.

[snip]

SPEAK! Series Presents Illegals in Times of Crisis with Julio Salgado

Join us as we hear from visual artist Julio Salgado, a queer artist of color whose work explore themes of immigration and queerness. As an undocumented and queer artist living in times of crisis, he uses his art to deal with anti-immigrant narratives. His lecture is a journey that takes a look behind the pieces he has created in the past decade. Who better to speak on the art than the artist himself.

Due to his work with agrarian movements and the National Campesino Union of Honduras (UNC), Tomás came under heavy persecution by large landowners and the state, forcing him to migrate within Honduras. After experiencing growing labor violations at a private company, Tomás and others made effort to unionize, and in 2005 he was named president of the newly-established SITRAGUA, a union dedicated to the cultivation and export of bananas. Tomás currently serves as the president of STAS, the Agroindustrial Workers Union, and also serves as secretary of FESTAGRO, the Trade Union Federation of Agribusiness Workers. Both STAS and FESTAGRO represent the first trade union and union federation in Honduras.

Reviewing the above events from the past two academic years at Macalester, it’s clear that the above is not about free speech and the free exchange of ideas, all of which are intended to expand student intellectual horizons. Instead, it’s pure political and social indoctrination, completely consistent with social Marxism.

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When Rosenberg talks about free speech, what he really means is that he will freely allow all speech that dovetails perfectly with hard Left values is allowed on his campus. Anything else will be banned.

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Bookworm came late to conservativism but embraced it with passion. She's been blogging since 2004 about anything that captures her fancy -- and that's usually politics. Her blog's motto is "Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts."

1 Comment

  1. Macalester? Never heard of it. Back in my college days I briefly considered transferring to a small liberal arts school in Massachusetts. Instead I opted for a large UC school partly because of reputation. Macalester might be a big deal among a few blue bloods, but when you’re interviewing at a prestigious bank or law firm, what are the odds the interviewer will recognize it?

    These small schools are anachronisms in the modern era. Getting reputations like this might draw in a few SJWs but at the cost of other paying students.
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