On this Valentine’s Day, it is my unfortunate duty to report that the war on freedom of speech and diversity of thought continues on college campuses across our nation. Many of those centers of higher learning continue to show little love for anyone who dare express a political opinion that isn’t far left.
The latest example comes from the Left Coast, where The Seattle Times reports that “five people were arrested, American flags burned and police officers used bicycle barricades and pepper spray to separate demonstrators at the University of Washington’s Red Square on Saturday during a much-anticipated rally called by supporters of President Donald Trump.”
Seems the university’s College Republicans invited Patriot Prayer, a right-leaning group based in Vancouver, Washington, to campus for the rally. The Times reports chaos broke out about 75 minutes into the event.
And just what evil causes were the Trump supporters rallying around that would cause such a fuss?
“Wearing a Make America Great Again hat, College Republicans President Chevy Swanson said the goal Saturday was to create a space for campus conservatives to share their values and promote their free-speech rights,” the Times reported.
That the rally was allowed to take place at all was news. University of Washington officials tried their best to prevent it by attempting to charge the College Republicans $17,000 to cover security costs for the event.
We can only imagine what would happen had a state-run university attempted to charge a left-leaning group that kind of money to bring a liberal speaker to campus. Left-leaning media outlets would have gone nuts. It’s not difficult to imagine The New York Times and The Washington Post dispatching multiple reporters to campus to launch investigations. MSNBC and CNN would have the Chris Matthews and Jake Tappers of the world reporting live, questioning the motives of campus officials.
But this was a group of conservative college kids being charged nearly 20 grand by their own school to bring a speaker to campus, so who cares, right? Besides, I’m sure the folks in the WaPO and NYT newsrooms are too busy meeting with their anonymous sources about Trump and Russia and dreaming about which celebrities are going to play them in “All the President’s Men 2” to chase real news.
But I digress. Meanwhile, back on the Left Coast, a federal court ruled the university couldn’t charge the College Republicans for security because it violated their free speech rights.
That meant the liberals on the Washington campus would be on their own to disrupt the rally and make sure no conservative speech would be permitted there, and they did their best.
“More than a dozen UW clubs, from CARE to Anti-Capitalists, are supporting counterprotests ‘to send a strong message that their (Patriot Prayer) voices are the minority,’” the Seattle newspaper reported in advance of the event.
Let’s stop right here for a minute. When did it become the job of the majority to shout down the minority, especially on college campuses. Isn’t one of the important parts of the college experience the exposure it gives students to people who are different from themselves -- people from different places, of different races, religions, etc.
Shouldn’t these campuses be places where different lines of thought and philosophy are allowed to be expressed and respectfully challenged -- whether that be in class discussions, organized debates or forums, or by bringing a wide array of speakers to campus.
And just in case anyone believes conservative voices are only made to feel unwelcome at Left Coast schools such as Washington or Cal-Berkeley, let me remind you that it was just two years ago that students and administrators at UAH attempted to remove then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as their commencement speaker.
To the credit of UAH administrators, that effort crashed and burned. We need more college and university officials in similar positions to put their personal views aside, show similar backbone and take steps necessary to make sure speakers from across the political realm -- whether conservative, liberal or moderate -- are welcome. Those efforts should include making sure students whose opposition to those speakers manifests itself in ways that go beyond the bounds of respectful, peaceful protest face serious consequences.
University administrators who fail to foster an atmosphere where diversity of thought is welcome are failing the students they’re paid to serve because diversity of thought does exist in the real world those students are preparing to enter. Those students are going to have to live and work among (and work for) people who think differently than themselves. They might even find the love of their life on the other end of the political spectrum. Just ask Mary Matalin, James Carville or conservative commentator Mary Katharine Ham, whose late husband worked in the Obama White House. On this Valentine’s Day, it’s worth noting that opposites can attract.
Lew Gilliland is assistant editor of The Daily Home. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.