JOHNS | Making Free Speech Rhetoric Free Speech Reality

President Trump last week signed an executive order that links federal research and education grants for colleges and universities to their unwavering commitment to “[promoting] free inquiry.” Translation: The long-standing progressive censorship game at colleges and universities is now over. Universities and colleges will immediately cease shutting down, impeding or permitting the disruption of conservative speakers, or now risk losing billions of federal research dollars that are generously given away each year to these institutions of higher learning. It is unfortunate that such an order has become a confrontational stance on America’s campuses, but academia has sadly reached that point. Young America’s Foundation, for instance, favorably settled a lawsuit over this precise issue with the University of California, Berkeley last December. UC Berkeley, facing a constitutional challenge to its speaking protocols, agreed to abolish its “high-profile speaker policy” and speaking fee schedule while implementing a policy that ensures that heckling protesters will no longer be permitted to shut down speakers on campus.

GUEST ROOM | Continue to Challenge Close-Mindedness at Cornell

On May 1, the Cornell University College Republicans hosted former Vice President Dick Cheney on campus for a lecture and question-and-answer session that was co-sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative youth organization. Despite repeated attempts by a group of students and faculty members to prevent the event from occurring as planned, the College Republicans successfully organized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nearly 550 interested students and community members to hear from one of the most consequential conservative leaders in recent history. Vice President Cheney delivered wide-ranging remarks, addressing topics such as his justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. enhanced interrogation program and the Iran nuclear deal, among others. These were all topics that were at the top of mind for those attending the event, as the questions were submitted directly by the public and posed to Cheney verbatim. The majority of audience members were respectful and clearly interested in hearing Cheney’s point of view.

BENITEZ | Hearing Dick Cheney

Imagine a bunch of chairs had been set up for a speaking engagement, and someone had tried to destroy as many of them as possible to decrease the number of people that could attend the engagement. (Assume too, for the sake of argument, that the number of chairs determine the possible audience size: the grass on which they are set up is wet and muddy, so people wouldn’t just be able to sit on the ground, and the speech will last for a tiring while, so standing is off the cards too.) For all intents and purposes, this appears to fall on the spectrum of silencing, albeit of a seemingly benign sort, and I suspect most of us would agree. When it therefore came to my attention that some students were last month taking as many free tickets as possible to Dick Cheney’s originally scheduled speaking engagement, I couldn’t help but be a little miffed. Such actions admittedly come from well-intentioned political activism. However, not only does it take advantage of the Cornell Republicans’ good will, but, more troublingly, it demonstrates the increasing political sectarianism within American society.