Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared war Tuesday on ‘speech codes’ and other efforts to restrict freedom of expression on college campuses, saying catering to students’ ‘fragile egos’ endangers the First Amendment.
He called on institutions of higher learning to ‘intellectually push back’ against students and others who ‘think they have a right to block somebody else’s beliefs and the expression of those beliefs.’
Sessions spoke at the Georgetown University law school.
He said that if universities do a better job of teaching the value of the U.S. Constitution, ‘fewer people will feel that they can have legitimacy by blocking someone else’s speech.’
‘Particularly on a college campus! My heaven’s sakes!’ the normally reserved Sessions erupted as he answered questions on stage. ‘College campuses, where it should be the most – you’re forming your ideas, you’re thinking things through!’
‘The American university was once the center of academic freedom – a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,’ he said during his speech.
‘But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.’
Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared war Tuesday on ‘speech codes’ and other efforts to restrict freedom of expression on college campuses
Sessions said catering to students’ ‘fragile egos’ endangers the First Amendment. A woman is shown stomping on a free speech sign after conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos spoke to a crowd of supporters on the University of California, Berkeley campus
this ‘Free Speech Area’ is the only place students are permitted to hold protests at Los Angeles Community College
Without specifically naming conservative campus groups, he encouraged students ‘to ask questions, to push back and to challenge what may be orthodoxy in many different areas.’
Sessions told the story of one group of students who were jailed for passing out copies of the Constitution on a campus walkway, and cited a survey that found 40 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have ‘speech codes that substantially infringe on constitutionally protected speech.’
‘Who decides what is offensive and what is acceptable? The university is about the search for truth, not the imposition of truth by a government censor,’ he said.
Sessions also criticized college administrators for permitting the ‘heckler’s veto’ by allowing protesters to shut down speaking events.
The result, he said, ‘has spawned a cottage industry of protesters who have quickly learned that school administrators will capitulate to their demands.’
Police were called in to escort conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos away from the University of California, Berkeley campus after he spoke there on September 24
Anti-Trump protesters met Yiannopoulos in Berkeley, and some in black masks turned violent
Sessions recalled a Middlebury College case in Vermont where student protesters physically assaulted debaters at a campus event, including an outside speaker and a professor.
And he clobbered ‘Orwellian-named “anti-fascist” protesters’ who have shut down conservative speakers through rioting.
Sessions mocked the University of California Berkeley for offering ‘counseling’ to students whose ‘sense of safety or belonging’ was threatened by a speech from one speaker, Ben Shapiro.
‘In the end, Mr. Shapiro spoke to a packed house. And to my knowledge, no one fainted, no one was unsafe. No one needed counseling,’ Sessions snarked.
The Trump administration has been largely silent about campus speech codes, but on Tuesday the Justice Department announced that it’s weighing in on a lawsuit brought by college students in Georgia.
Sessions said Tuesday that the Justice Department is weighing in on a lawsuit brought by college students in Georgia.
When students at Grand Valley State University student Michigan wanted to protest the shooting of an unarmed man, they were told to stay in the college’s ‘free speech zone’
Gwinnett College’s policy is to limit student protests to a pair of small ‘free-speech zones,’ which the DOJ says total 0.0015 per cent of the campus.
‘Additionally, these students were required to obtain prior authorization from campus officials, to limit their expressive activity to a specified date and time, and to comply with the Student Code of Conduct’s prohibition of speech that “disturbs the … comfort of person(s)”.’
The ‘Antifa’ mob and other protesters managed to stop an appearance by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at a Berkeley ‘Free Speech Week’ in February. The event led to violent protests.
Yiannopoulos held his own forum on Sunday after organizers nixed an event.
‘We are unable to hold an official UC Berkeley speaking event, Yiannopoulos said amid intense security, according to the Los Angeles Times. ‘So we’re going to host an unofficial one.’