by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
This is pathetic, totalitarian behavior, and it should be less, not more, common in our nation’s universities than it is everywhere else. Yes, it’s protected speech. But that says nothing about its value, which is non-existent — especially in a place of openness and learning.
The people who contributed to the debate at UF yesterday were inside the hall, trying to hear themselves over the din. The people who chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Ben Sasse has got to go” were not helping those inside make their case; they were trying to shut the discourse down completely. That’s legal, but it’s not virtuous.
As for the protesters’ underlying criticism? It’s illiberal and silly. As CNN confirms, the chanters’ claim is not that Sasse will do anything wrong if he becomes president of the university; it’s that Sasse has beliefs of which some students disapprove. “Many are concerned with Sasse’s past comments that show he is not in favor of same-sex marriage and abortion,” CNN reports. Okay, so what? I daresay there’s not a university president in America with whom I don’t disagree about something important. Hell, many of them favor killing the unborn en masse. But, in a big, free, rambunctious, pluralist country such as this one, people are going to disagree with one another. Tolerance requires those people to treat each other equally, and with respect. It does not require them to agree with one another. “I believe in the universal dignity and the immeasurable worth of every single person,” Sasse said. That should be enough.
Besides, as the president of the University of Florida, Sasse would have no power over same-sex marriage or abortion. Nor is there any indication that he would treat anybody who was in a same-sex marriage — or who had had an abortion — any differently than anybody else.