A few months ago, the UMass Law Federalist Society Chapter invited me to speak about free speech on college campuses. As a reflection of a disturbing trend, the talk itself became a lesson itself on the First Amendment. The organization posted flyers around the school advertising the event. Below the flyer, to drive home the point, the students wrote “Free Speech Space.” Some students took them up on the offer, writing messages about immigration, the war in Syria, the environment, sexual assault, and a host of other controversial topics.
Other students were offended by these messages, so they responded in the only way they knew how: by tearing down the poster and crumpling it up into a ball. The offenders are unknown, though I understand the administration is checking security cameras to see who did it. (It’s remarkable how often such incidents are caught on omnipresent surveillance, yet how seldom any actual punishments are meted out). I also understand that members of the faculty supported the effort to take down the flyers because of the “offensive” messages scribbled on them.
When I arrived on campus, I was pleased to see new flyers were still posted, though without an included “free speech space.”
In light of this backdrop, and my recent concerns, I held back nothing, and gave a full-throated defense of free speech. At the moment my calendar is open for the fall semester, and I’d be happy to visit your campus.
Here is the audio: