Should Big Brother Guarantee Free Speech?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Two scholars are leery of such a prospect. “In recent years, the foundational values of free speech and open inquiry have increasingly come under assault at the nation’s colleges and universities,”the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Grant Addison write in National Affairs. “Every week, it seems, there is a story concerning campus speech codes being imposed, speakers being silenced, or faculty members being assailed for wrong-think.”

“In response, some have proposed reforms intended to compel colleges and universities (public ones, at any rate) to honor academic freedom and free inquiry. Some critics have called for cutting off all public funds — including student aid — to institutions judged to limit protected speech. While the impulse is understandable, the problem is that such measures threaten to give public officials extraordinary power over colleges and students. One needn’t possess much imagination to envision how quickly that kind of authority could go awry.”

But the Supreme Court has decreed in Grove City that what the government, at least at the federal level, subsidizes, it can regulate. Moreover, should colleges and universities that get taxpayer funding also receive a blank check?

Moreover, haven’t things on college campuses already gone “awry” without possessing much imagination?