Dr. Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University and Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, penned a column headlined “Universities Are A Neutral Marketplace Of Ideas” Feb. 2 in Forbes.
The riots at the University of California at Berkeley protesting the speech that the Campus Republicans planned for Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News provoked President Donald Trump into sending a tweet that suggested that perhaps federal funds should be denied to campuses that stifle free speech and expression. This echoes somewhat the advocacy by the Goldwater Institute and Heritage Foundation for state-level legislation that requires that public universities have, as a matter of university policy, a policy supporting free speech and expression for individual members of the campus community, and also official university neutrality on matters of public policy, modeled somewhat after landmark statements issued at Yale and the University of Chicago over the past half century.
In the Berkeley situation, the protesters destroyed property and caused a good deal of damage and were successful in keeping Yiannopoulos from speaking. This all resonates especially strongly with me, since the Campus Republicans at my school (Ohio University), some of them my students, invited Yiannopoulos to speak last semester. There were protests, but they were peaceful and did not interfere with his remarks. In other words, there are legitimate and illegitimate ways to express yourselves. It is okay to say “we do not agree with the views of visitor X and urge people to reject his heinous positions.” It is not OK to cause damage to property or persons and physically prevent speakers from presenting their point of view.
Speaking of my campus, police arrested 70 demonstrators last night….