by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
David Seidemann describes for Martin Center readers one New York university’s disturbing stance on free speech.
Public universities morally should and legally must uphold free speech. Unfortunately, the university where I’ve taught for 43 years has a very bad record, and matters are getting worse.
The City University of New York (CUNY) has a long history of speech suppression, as a sampling of legal cases at its various campus units reveals. For example, in 2007, a federal appeals court ruled that the College of Staten Island’s president violated students’ First Amendment rights when she nullified a student election; in a 2017 court settlement, Queens College administrators agreed to reverse their arbitrary decision to deny official recognition of a pro-life group litigation.
The administration of Brooklyn College has been particularly aggressive in suppressing speech. This is illustrated in a series of court cases involving students who were attempting to stop the college from collecting a mandatory fee in support of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), an off-campus, liberal lobbying group. …
… The consequence of shielding campuses from controversial political thoughts (whether from off-campus posters or guest speakers) is predictable: the reinforcement of group-think. If CUNY administrators repeatedly and willfully violate First Amendment rights, is it any surprise that CUNY students fail to grasp the value of free speech and the legal protection that it is afforded?
Sure enough, last year there were three noteworthy student-led campaigns targeting the protected speech of wrong-thinking faculty.