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.

Royal Wedding Versus Jersey Shore

On Friday many Anglophilic Americans will get up extra early, brew some good strong tea and let it steep, heat up scones with clotted cream, and tune in the royal wedding.  Great Britain’s Prince William is getting married to Kate Middleton, and the royal watchers will be agog at the extraordinary display — commenting on every nuance of the ceremony, the cost of the event, the origins of the silks and satins in the bridal gown, the nature of the floral displays, and countless other details that no rational person would even notice.

The British people have a hereditary monarchy; they more or less have to pay attention to this stuff.  Why do any Americans, who fought the Revolutionary War 235 years ago to throw off the British monarchy, care?  Who knows for sure?  But Americans do like celebrity, and the British royal family are just about the essence of celebrity.  They’re super-rich and seemingly stylish, they live in castles and palaces, they take fabulous vacations and holidays, they wear crowns and medals and kilts and fine hats and gowns, and they don’t have jobs in the normal sense of the word.  What’s not to like?

Some haughty Americans will use the occasion of the royal wedding to make fun of the Brits and their American cousins who are obsessed with the royal family.  However, in a land where the dim-witted cast members of Jersey Shore are famous, we shouldn’t be so quick to cast judgment on our friends across the pond.  After all, even “Fergie” is not more appalling than Snooki.  If you have to live in a culture that seems to inevitably make otherwise unremarkable people famous, at least let it be folks who can speak the King’s English properly, who live in Windsor Castle, and who don’t apply make-up with a trowel, flaunt their perma-tans and cleavage and pumped-up muscles, blather to a camera about their inane personal problems, and routinely engage in drunken misbehavior.

So, good luck and best wishes to the Prince and his bride!  Now, let us get back to our fixation on American low lifes.