In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley joined together to fight for their right to free speech.
Last night, a group of over 1,500 protestors showed up on that same campus to shut down a speaker with whom they disagreed, and about 150 of them started a riot.
Clearly, the culture of tolerance on college campuses has changed quite a bit since 1964.
Last night, Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos stopped by the UC Berkeley campus on his college tour to talk about the importance of free speech, yet was met with shocking hostility that led to violence.
He is well known for criticizing the “social justice left” in a very provocative manner that elicits a strong response from the campuses he visits. He is no stranger to disruptive protests outside his events.
However, the new violent nature of these protests prompts a discussion over whether or not the school should be a recipient of federal funds.
Videos have surfaced of a crowd of protestors beating a man unconscious and lighting a massive fire, which led to the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagement by the university.
Yet as of last night, campus police remained minimally involved in containing the riots, with the police chief saying she was not aware of any arrests made.
This soft response seems odd in light of UC Berkeley’s statement this morning, which affirmed the importance of free speech:
Campus officials [said] that they regret that the threats and unlawful actions of a few have interfered with the exercise of First Amendment rights on a campus that is proud of its history and legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement.
If UC Berkeley is so dedicated to protecting Yiannopoulos’ free speech, why the weak response?
The riots were violent enough to elicit a response from President Donald Trump, who tweeted out, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Indeed, American taxpayers should be well aware of where their money is going.
UC Berkeley is a public institution that receives federal dollars, yet it appears to allow violence, censorship, and holds contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law.
UC Berkeley is a public institution that receives federal dollars.
Yet on Jan. 26, the university’s chancellor issued a statement saying that Yiannopoulos had “been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech” and added that “Mr. Yiannopoulos’s opinions and behavior can elicit strong reactions and his attacks can be extremely hurtful and disturbing.”
Hardly impartial statements.
This is not the first time lawmakers have called for federal funds to be withheld from Berkeley, California.
In 2008, Heritage Foundation President and former Sen. Jim DeMint called for federal funding to be revoked from the city after the Berkeley City Council voted to remove a Marine Corps recruiting center from the city.
As DeMint said, “The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money.”
No city and no university campus should turn a blind eye to the rule of law in order to promote their political agendas. Indeed, the acceptance of federal funds should require an adherence to the basic rights guaranteed Americans in the Constitution—and that includes the First Amendment.
The threats to freedom of speech on college campuses are disturbing and warrant a response.
On Tuesday, Stanley Kurtz along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute presented model state legislation at The Heritage Foundation to combat censorship and restriction of free speech on college campuses, which is intended to silence any dissenting views on political and social issues.
If adopted, this state-level legislation would require universities to open their doors to all invited speakers and reaffirm their commitment to free speech.
This is an important first step in restoring respect for constitutional rights in our university systems, something that is essential to preserving the free flow and vigorous debate of ideas that is fundamental to thriving academic institutions.
On the federal level, lawmakers should consider policies that limit federal subsidies to institutions that are hostile to free speech and who allow violence, threats, and intimidation of speakers and students to occur without consequence.
Taxpayers, who are already on the hook for $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt should not continue to provide funding for universities that do not offer First Amendment protections to their students and guests.
Hopefully, such legislative responses will restore our universities to being places of thoughtful debate, where opposing views are met with respect and civil debate, rather than riots.