Squashing Free Speech On Campus

When I attended The Ohio State University in the 1970s, colleges were free speech zones. Diverse opinions spanning the political spectrum were tolerated because hearing competing viewpoints was part of what college was all about. Students didn’t need to be shielded from certain views. Instead, they were viewed as intellectually capable of sifting through the clash of ideas and reaching their own positions on the issues. That’s why groups like the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, among others, were permitted to set up tables on the Oval to hawk their philosophies and solicit new members.

Apparently that approach no longer holds sway — at least on some campuses. The latest evidence can be seen at Rutgers University, where Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to give the commencement address. The Rutgers Faculty Council has passed a resolution asking the school to rescind the invitation to Rice, arguing that she should not appear because of her role in the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Even worse, an editorial in the Rutgers student newspaper, the Daily Targum, agreed with the Faculty Council.

Condoleezza Rice is one of the most impressive and accomplished Americans of her generation. She’s written books, taught and served as provost at Stanford University, and served as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Her story of achievement and success is an inspirational one that the Rutgers community should consider itself fortunate to hear. If the Rutgers faculty members disagree with her role in the Iraq War, the appropriate course is for them to offer competing viewpoints when she is on campus to give her remarks, rather than trying to quash her speech altogether.

Incidentally, in 2011 Rutgers invited “Snooki” Polizzi from Jersey Shore to give a speech to its students, and paid her $32,000 to do so. Snooki apparently told the Rutgers students to “study hard, but party harder” and spoke about the benefits of being tan.

So Rutgers students can hear the vapid musings of a “reality TV” celebrity, but shouldn’t be exposed to the views of an African-American woman who has reached the top levels of academia and government? The Rutgers Faculty Council and the Daily Targum are embarrassing themselves.