During Red China’s great cultural revolution, it was called thought reform. Chairman Mao knew how to handle hundreds of millions of people, and it wouldn’t be by allowing them to think for themselves. Early on, he learned to use the young to his advantage. He persuaded them, and those who weren’t persuaded at least kept it to themselves. For to do otherwise, a body might find itself a head shorter.
Thank goodness for America’s founders. They came up with a little number called the First Amendment and the United States Constitution, the greatest work of the mind of men ever struck off. And it’s been working for 232 years.
Let’s keep it that way.
Why on Earth would supposed bastions of thought and education try to contain free speech and limit that speech to certain zones? If American taxpayers fund American college campuses, shouldn’t those universities be 100 percent open to free speech, demonstrations and more—so long as the events taking place aren’t violent or overly disruptive?
That should be the case, and yet we sometimes hear of reports of conservative voices drowned out on campuses. There was an incident at a California college a few weeks ago in which a recruiter for a conservative organization was roughed up. Here in Arkansas, Arkansas State University is facing a lawsuit concerning a dispute over a recruiting table for conservative organization Turning Point USA at the Jonesboro campus’ Heritage Plaza.
The Washington Times shed some light on part of the problem:
“A new study confirms what even the most casual observer of higher education has long known—that conservative professors are vastly outnumbered by liberal ones—but it also shows that the problem is getting worse. Published in Econ Journal Watch last month, the study looks at faculty voter registration at 40 leading universities and finds that, out of 7,243 professors, Democrats outnumber Republicans 3,623 to 314, or by a ratio of 11 to 1,” the paper reported.
Having such an imbalance of faculty nationwide isn’t good for students. College should be about the free exchange of a wide variety of ideas, from all over the political spectrum. And we’re glad to see our lawmakers took action this session to end the practice of “free speech zones.”
Here’s more from the Arkansas paper, that is, this one: “The new law, set to take effect statewide 90 days after final adjournment of the ongoing legislative session, states members of a campus community wanting ‘to engage in noncommercial activity in an outdoor area of campus of a state-supported institution of higher education shall be permitted to do so freely,’ so long as their conduct is not unlawful and ‘does not materially or substantially disrupt’ university functions. The law specifically prohibits free-expression zones, stating that public colleges and universities ‘shall not create free speech zones or other designated outdoor areas of campus outside of which expressive activities are prohibited.’”
That’s the way it should be. We can remember the “free speech zone” at Arkansas Tech University. At one point, the zone was right outside the Doc Bryan building where students ate lunch. If you wanted to make use of it, you’d apply to use the space. Once approved, you worked within a circle to share your message. And though different people took advantage of it, perhaps none were more infamous than a fiery preacher the students called Old Man Moses.
He would come to campus maybe once a year with his Bible, perhaps a sign or two, and prepare to yell at all the sinful college students. To say he was unpopular would be an understatement. He was probably there to save souls, but from what we saw and heard, he spent more time railing against those long-haired rock ‘n’ roll-listening punks. Students would circle him, some listening, others yelling back at him, and for a few hours there’d be an energetic and lively demonstration to those passing by on the way to class.
Still, no matter how annoyed some students became with his presence, he had a right to be there on a taxpayerfunded public campus. He was constitutionally protected to share his message. And now, thanks to Act 184, Old Man Moses (if he’s still on the preaching circuit) won’t be limited to just one circle on campus. So long as his demonstration stays lawful and doesn’t disrupt campus, he’s free to preach.
Free speech enforcement should be universal, especially on college campuses, and with this new law in place, that’s what it could be. If Congress shall make no law, neither should university administrators.