- 07:30 — Sharp eyed university censors notice half a dozen unauthorized communications chalked into sidewalks. “#PlaidSwag” looks suspicious. Superiors notified.
- 09:30 — University censorship action group (UCAG) concludes that a non-cyber information attack is underway.
- 9:45 — Vehicles parked over information attack sites to deter spread of dangerous ideas.
- 10:00 — Criminal incident information recorded.
- 10:15 — University powerwashing crews swiftly deployed.
- 10:45 — Non-cyber information attack threat diluted.
- 4:45 — Report on effective use of human resources forwarded to Superiors.
- Unfortunately, this is all true, except the part about the UCAG — we actually don’t know what they call themselves or what they call unauthorized chalkings.
Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed “Freedom of Association” bills that allow religious and political groups at state colleges to restrict membership to individuals who are “committed” to the organization’s mission. Opponents of the legislation said the bills are thinly veiled attempts to let subsidized campus groups discriminate against gay students.
“It’s pretty simple: A Democratic club shouldn’t have to accept a Republican as a member and members of a religious group should be able to expect that their leadership will share the group’s core commitments,” Mark Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, told the Roanoke Times.
The idea of freedom of association was supported in a US Supreme Court case in 1995, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston. But the case did not involve state funding of the groups in question, and the Supreme Court also said that Boston gays had a right to stage their own separate parade.
In November, 2012, Radford University received a “yellow light” rating on free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
What this means is that a formal outside review has found RU policies deficient. At the begining of the Spring 2013 semester, no move to change RU policies was apparent on the part of the Radford University administration.
But freedom of speech is often not recognized in the one place where it ought to be respected the most: A college campus in the USA.
For centuries, and for generations, unpopular speech has been most protected on college campuses. For instance, a photo of President Teddy Roosevelt (above) shows a speech he gave defending Professor John Bassett on the Duke University campus in 1903. Bassett was about to be fired for saying he thought Booker T. Washington (an African American leader) was the greatest person the South had ever produced except Robert E. Lee.
When the Duke board refused to fire Bassett, Roosevelt said:
“You stand for Academic Freedom, for the right of private judgment, for a duty more incumbent upon the scholar than upon any other man, to tell the truth as he sees it, to claim for himself and to give to others the largest liberty in seeking after the truth.”
It’s been a long time since any similarly strong defense of campus speech has taken place. Today many universities simply refuse to recognize First Amendment rights until they are forced to do so by a court. At Radford University, where this blog originates, avenues for student expression are strictly limited in ways that are obviously unconstitutional. Continue reading