Column: Freedom of speech is an endangered species on colleges campuses across the nation
I’ve been asked to speak at various locations for various occasions in the past. I spoke at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in 2009 when the tea party had a rally. I’ve been a panelist for the Philadelphia Bar Association discussing the media and O.J. Simpson. I’ve gone to the state Capitol to testify about gun violence and the link with mental illness. I’ve spoken at churches, in Spanish and French, trying to keep immigrants from panicking about President Donald Trump’s executive orders.
What can I say: I’m an Italian-Irish lady with lots of opinions. I’m amazed that people are willing to listen to them. (They don’t pay, but still.)
What I can’t manage to do is get a speaking gig at my alma mater or its brother school. I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1983, when it was still safe to be a moderate, which I was at the time. Going to Bryn Mawr was a wonderful experience that exposed me to different viewpoints and value systems, and it gave me the courage to come out, so to speak, as a real conservative by the time I put on my graduation robe. While at Bryn Mawr, I spent a lot of time on Haverford’s campus, so I feel in some ways an alum of that leafy, lovely campus too.
You can imagine, then, how happy I was to hear from a member of an organization called No Labels in November that they wanted me to come and talk to the community about my life, my writing, my politics and whatever else might have come up during the discussion. I was told they needed to do some planning, which I suppose was a polite way of saying, “We need to make sure the liberal students don’t come for you with flaming torches.” That was fine, and I waited to hear back.
After a few weeks, I got a text saying that because it was the end of term, they’d put it off until the next semester. Sounded fine to me.
I expected to hear something in January, and there was silence. I expected to hear something in February, too, but the crickets sang a lovely version of Handel’s “Messiah.” Finally, after I mentioned something on Facebook about the aborted attempt to speak at my alma mater, I got a text apologizing for the long delay and promising that someone would be in touch shortly.
About a week later, I got a text saying No Labels was meeting that evening and would get back to me with dates later that night or the next day.
That was three weeks ago.
I texted the organizer in one last attempt to see whether this was a real person or one of those robots that take and send messages and got a text saying, essentially, sorry, but no. I have now resigned myself to the fact that Bryn Mawr and Haverford do not want to hear what I have to say. I could attribute this to a variety of reasons, including that I’m really not that interesting, famous or tall enough to be seen easily above the lectern. All of these are true.
However, given what has been happening on college campuses lately, I wouldn’t be surprised that No Labels does, in fact, have one label in its top drawer, which includes the message: “No Conservatives Allowed.”
I’m not picking on these colleges, mind you. Bryn Mawr and Haverford are not the only ones that have slid into this valley where the only type of dissent allowed is the type that doesn’t offend, anger, trouble or delegitimize anyone. That type of dissent is usually called, “Shut up, I don’t want to hear what you have to say.”
At Pomona College in California, students of “color,” whatever that means these days, claimed that the truth was really a tool of “white supremacy.” They pushed to have conservative commentators at the Claremont Independent, a campus publication, sanctioned. They have the gall to demand this.
This makes sense because so many people of “color” want to feel comfortable in their happy places, like Black Lives Matter meetings where people without “color” (like me, apparently) are barred from participating. The next logical step is to punish people who disagree with them, conservatives who have the audacity to dissent from the liberal, borderline communist view of the world.
And then, there were the protests at Berkeley, where a riot broke out when conservative firebrand Milo Yannopoulos was prevented from speaking and where Ann Coulter originally was told she couldn’t appear because the school is not sure it can ensure her safety, before officials changed their minds. Coulter rejected the rescheduled date, noting that the new date occurs when classes are not in session.
As an aside, I doubt school officials really care whether Ann is crushed under a replica of one of those May Day tanks that used to roll through Moscow during the Soviet heydays, but it’s nice to think they actually have a tender side.
And of course, we can’t forget the teacher who was physically assaulted by the little darlings at Middlebury, who were protesting the appearance of Charles Murray.
No, our folk out here are much tamer. Bryn Mawr and Haverford would not expose me to physical danger; they just don’t want to hear what I have to say about unborn babies, stupid little pink crochet hats, same-sex marriage (they really don’t want to hear that) and sexual harassment, a la Bill O’Reilly. They might enjoy my comments about immigration, but it would be too much to digest that along with the rest of the bitter brew. So, I’m thinking, they’ve just decided to opt out.
These are the things that make me glad I actually went to college at a time when people could annoy you, enrage you, excite you and, with that, inspire you.
Now, you’re more likely to get a concussion than conversation, more likely to be threatened than intellectually challenged, more likely to be bloodied than informed.
I guess I’ll stick to pro-life rallies, where the human casualties haven’t been born yet.