As much as liberal academics and the liberal media rail against President Donald Trump’s “fake news” monikor, there is a real threat to free speech and free press: liberal college and university campuses.
As John K. Wilson at Academe Blog pointed out, many of the Top 25 universities and colleges in the United States have restrictive free speech and journalist policies. For example, Harvard University insists that all journalists must seek permission from its administration to enter its campus, but it does not have any simliar restrictions of other professionals. Here is an excerpt from his blog:
In a study I conducted as a fellow with the University of California National Center on Free Speech and Civic Engagement, I found that some of the leading elite universities in America have extraordinary restrictions on freedom of the press, banning all journalists from campus unless they get permission from the administration. Harvard’s media policy declares, “Reporting, photographing, and videotaping are prohibited on campus without prior permission.” Why is Harvard’s media policy so problematic? The demand to grant permission always implies the right to deny it. It creates unnecessary barriers for the media, and the faculty, staff, and students who wish to talk with them. Imagine if Harvard announced a policy requiring permission to protest on campus; even if Harvard officials promised not to ban protests, the chilling effect of having to request permission for free expression is alarming.
Harvard is not alone in having a very restrictive campus media policy. Among the Top 25 American universities, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale all require permission from a news office before journalists are allowed on campus. Some of the restrictions are rather extreme. Stanford’s policy, for example, bans members of the media not only from campus but also from “the surrounding faculty neighborhoods without prior permission from University Communications.”
Harvard might point out that its policy is no different from other private corporations, and even the New York Times doesn’t allow competing reporters to wander around its offices. But a college campus covering a large outdoor space isn’t like an office building. And universities should not be run like corporations. A corporation would typically prohibit free speech on its property. A university must not engage in such repression if it wants to be a true university.
While the New York Times does not permit the general public to wander its halls, virtually all college campuses welcome visitors to walk on campus, gaze at the stately buildings, take photographs, and learn more about the university. Only one type of person must receive permission before stepping foot on some campuses: the reporter.
Private colleges have no legal obligation to allow freedom of the press on campus, just as they have no legal obligation to protect academic freedom or defend free speech on campus. But all colleges have a moral obligation to protect free expression, including the freedom of the press.
What’s so shocking about these total bans on the media is that they’re completely unnecessary. Colleges desire publicity, and restrictions on the press only discourage media attention. Many elite private universities (including CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Penn, Rice, USC, and Washington University) have no formal policy banning the media on campus, and there’s no sign of any problems. It’s easy to set reasonable expectations to protect the privacy of dorm rooms, offices, and classrooms from uninvited reporters without giving the administration the power to decide if journalists are allowed on campus.
You can read his full blog here.
It is ironic that as much as liberals claim that they honor and respect journalists, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of the speech, but in practice, they put into place restrictive speech codes, laws, or regulations.