The University of California Regents are scheduled to consider at a meeting tomorrow a proposal that will turn the Constitutional protection of free speech on its head, while empowering the thought police of campus elites.
The policy is a Regents’ Statement of Principles Against Intolerance, and it begins with a high-minded endorsement of academic freedom. “Free expression and the open exchange of ideas—principles enshrined in our national and state Constitutions—are part of the University’s fiber.”
So far, so good. The First Amendment does not stop at the campus doorstep and historically colleges and universities have been breeding grounds for provocative ideas and even unpopular speech.
But then the Regents’ policy entangles itself in a web of pious political correctness on the issue of intolerance that is self-contradictory as well as unconstitutional.
“Everyone in the University community has the right to study, teach, conduct research, and work free from acts and expressions of intolerance,” the policy says. The Regents define intolerance as “unwelcome conduct motivated by discrimination against, or hatred toward, other individuals or groups.”
So hate speech (whatever that is) and derogatory language (again, fungible) would violate the policy. Chillingly, the policy says the University “will respond promptly and effectively to reports of intolerant behavior and treat them as opportunities to reinforce the University’s Principles Against Intolerance.”
Perhaps campus officials are planning a thought gulag where purveyors of intolerance can get their minds right.
UCLA Law School Professor Eugene Volokh, who specializes in free speech law, wrote in the Washington Post, “The authors of the proposal love free and open exchange of ideas, until some ideas they dislike about, say, disabilities, are expressed.”
President Obama took on campus PC during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, saying “that’s not the way we learn.” The President said college students should not be “coddled and protected from different points of view.”
The First Amendment exists specifically to protect the very speech the Regents are trying to curb—unpopular speech. In the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), Justice Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr., wrote for the majority, “Under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries, but on the competition of other ideas.”
That is what the University of California Regents should be promoting—the marketplace of ideas where the truth will emerge and falsehoods will dissipate. Instead, the Regents have concocted an Orwellian doctrine that suppresses speech and subjects students, faculty and staff to the whims of political correctness.