Op-Ed: Censorship imposed by students at private colleges in Pennsylvania | Pennsylvania

At first glance, Pennsylvania does not stand out from the second Ranking of academic freedom of expression, the results of a survey of more than 37,000 students at 159 colleges. You won’t find any of the state colleges listed near the top of the rankings, next to Claremont McKenna College, nor at the bottom, next to the national double worst DePauw University.

But on one particularly important metric – students’ ease of self-expression – Pennsylvania schools stand out, and in a way that shows a disturbing trend on smaller US college campuses.

By this measure, Haverford College, Bucknell University and the University of Pennsylvania rank among the 10 campuses with the most reluctant student populations nationwide. Carnegie Mellon University is not far behind, ranking 18th on the list.

More encouragingly, Temple University ranks in the top three in the country for student comfort in speaking, and Penn State University placed a respectable 18th place. The University of Pittsburgh, however, got a mediocre ranking of 86.

These findings coincide with a broader finding from surveys – conducted by RealClearEducation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and research firm College Pulse – that colleges with large numbers of students tend to favor environments more tolerable speech environments than their comparatively smaller, often private speech environments. , peers.

The question is: why?

“Administration is not the biggest obstacle to free speech, students are,” said a Penn student who requested anonymity. “I have seen the far left grow bolder and they believe their suppression tactics are working. They get loud, get angry, stay there and scream until their demands are met.

Indeed, even compared to a decade ago, college administrations no longer play the dominant role of censor on large and small campuses.

As a former free speech advocate David French recently Explain, “Two decades of relentless litigation and activism have turned the tide. . . Only a quarter of universities now have clearly unconstitutional language codes, and they are largely unenforced. “

But no such free speech activism has been aimed at the current generation of students, and the result is clear: an astounding 66% of students surveyed nationwide support shouting speakers who do not share their views – a 4% increase since last year. And nearly one in four – a 5% increase from 2020 – said they supported the use of violence to stop some speech.

As the survey noted, this growing population of intolerant students are better equipped to cluster around a dominant point of view and identify those who disagree within small groups of people. ‘students. As a result, they are now crushing dissent on campuses like Pennsylvania’s private colleges.

Stories of students who organize to isolate, intimidate and cancel lecturers and professors are informed with frightening frequency.

The Penn student explained how radical left groups on campus are organizing to cancel the conferences. In 2019, for example, they canceled a speech by Thomas Homan, the former director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They blocked the entrances and exits, causing a violation of the fire code.

When Republicans at Penn’s College welcomed Homan again in January 2020, event organizers “had to be tactical in creating ways in and out of the building in coordination with public safety,” while “the feet[ing] the bill for the required police overtime, ”the student said.

Dawn Toguchi, executive director of the Open Discourse Coalition at Bucknell University, also spoke about a student-led attempt to ostracize those who invited conservative author Heather Mac Donald to speak on campus. One student used a megaphone to “read the names of faculty members” who sponsored the event.

Toguchi says administrations must do more to tackle student hostility to free speech.

“They need to take a strong leadership position to encourage speech and debate, and respect for a true diversity of viewpoints,” she said.

Without such leadership, it is clear that this generation of students will continue to cry out until their demands are met on campus – and from there to do the same in boardrooms, communities and government. .

Michael Torres (@MindofTorres) is Director of Media at the Commonwealth Foundation.

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