Events in the last two weeks at three of America’s top universities, Stanford, Cornell, and Yale, have illustrated starkly how many young Americans and their teachers now either support censorship and violence against dissenters, or are too cowardly to defend the rights of Americans when their free speech rights are attacked.
At the Stanford Law School a 5th Circuit Judge, Stuart Kyle Duncan, was shouted down and then lectured by a dean at the school for daring to have opinions she disagreed with. Stanford officials have issued a weak apology, but have done nothing concrete to discipline anyone for enforcing a heckler’s veto at the school.
At Cornell, the promise of university officials to punish students who participated in a protest that shouted down Ann Coulter has apparently been put aside once the heat died down.
Cornell University’s media team has not responded to multiple inquiries in the past months on possible punishments for the student activists. The College Fix also emailed communications director Rebecca Valli on March 6 and asked for an update on investigations into the students involved and what Cornell planned to do in the future to prevent similar problems.
The silence comes despite an initial strong statement from university leadership that criticized the Nov. 9 disruption.
Finally, officials at Yale Law School have attempted to fix things after being badly embarrassed by a similar violent protest in March 2022, when students shouted down Kristen Waggoner, the president of the non-profit law firm the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As a result of that protest and the strong support of it by the faculty and student body, high level judges nationwide began a boycott of Yale’s graduates, stating publicly that they would not hire them because it was clear they did not understand fundamental American law.
Almost a year after Waggoner was silenced by Yale’s students and faculty, Waggoner was able to return to the university in January 2023 and successfully give a speech.
To do it however the university limited attendance and used “photo ID to control who entered the event,” actions that not only limited who could hear Waggoner’s speech but also indicated strongly that Yale still does not trust its student body to behavior like civilized adults who understand the law and the First Amendment. Instead, it knows that a very large percentage of the school’s population still supports censorship, as proven by the 400 students (a majority) who signed a petition following the protest in 2022 endorsing the protesters.
If you wish to be optimistic you could interpret these events as a positive trend. Cornell felt compelled to say it would punish the hecklers. Yale made sure a second appearance by Waggoner was not silenced. And Stanford officials immediately issued an apology, recognizing the inappropriateness of what happened.
I am not so sanguine. To me these actions appear to be desperate defensive holding actions against an aggressive opponent who has the initiative and is gaining ground at all points. We must remember that these schools are still doing nothing to teach their students that their actions to silence dissent is wrong. Bad behavior remains unpunished. The students will thus graduate and go into the workforce, some as lawyers and judges, still believing that censorship and violence against dissent is proper and justified.
If you believe in free speech be warned. The future continues to look grim.
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