Observations On The University Of Houston’s Anti-Free Speech Oppression

zipper on mouth

Prelude

I gave an ethics training session for a local non-profit yesterday. At the end of the two hours, a staffer who was pursuing U.S. citizenship was obviously stimulated by the various issues and principles we had discussed and had many provocative questions, which he struggled to articulate in his second language, for he was Sorth Korean. “Why is it right for me to pay taxes to assist illegal immigrants?” he asked. “In Sorth Korea, they say we are decades behind the US is democracy, but Korean laws are enforced no matter who the law-breaker is. I see that law-breakers in the US who are rich and powerful or famous get special dispensations from the law. Doesn’t that mean that Korea is ahead of the U.S., at least in that respect?” (Gee, I wonder who he was referring to…)

He had insightful observations, as recent immigrants to the U.S. so often do. Finally he said, “Do you agree that political correctness is a great threat to liberty and democracy?”

Yes. Yes I do. I thought so the first time I heard the term “politically correct” in the Seventies, and was so certain that the concept’s loathsomeness (and the parallel loathsomeness of its advocates, frankly), ensured that it would be a short-lived phenomenon.

Which shows how smart I am…

***

Shortly after the July 7 massacre of  five police officers in Dallas, Rohini Sethi, the vice-president of the University of Houston’s Student Government Association, posted this on Facebook:

BLM tweet

The student governing body suspended her from her office and the group.

From the Houston Chronicle…

Student body vice president Rohini Sethi has been suspended by the SGA and is temporarily barred from participating in group activities. She is also due to attend a “diversity” workshop per the ruling….The University of Houston issued a statement this week that said the move is not a university action and doesn’t impact Sethi’s academic standing. “The University of Houston continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their constitutional rights,” the statement said.

The action came after minority student groups on campus condemned her statement as racist or “insensitive,”and demanded her removal. The accommodating president of the SGA complied. For her part, Sethi apologized and agreed to take a three-day cultural sensitivity workshop, though she wrote several Facebook posts defending her actions. Ultimately she was brought to heel, made a public statement along with the SGA head, and like a brain-washed prisoner of war, grovelled..

“I have chosen to take these steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body. I may have the right to post what I did, but I still should not have. My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feeling and cause many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them. I will always continue to learn and be ready to discuss these issues.”

Observations:

1. Little by little, bit by bit, American youth is being taught by episodes like this that official sanctions and penalties will result from non-conforming political and social policy viewpoints. This weakens the culture’s commitment to free speech and thought, and is a vile and un-American form of oppression. It is easy to separate the heroes from the villains in this matter. The heroes are those who condemn the speech-repressing responses like those of the University of Houston’s student government, the lazy cowards in the university’s leadership, which will not defend free speech, and any groups that regard censorship and chilling the freedom of expression as an appropriate or ethical tool of discourse.

The heroes are those who refuse to submit to this totalitarian trend, and who speak out against it.

2. Facebook comments are pure personal expression, and except in cases of true threats or libel, neither a college, nor a high school, nor any school, nor any organization supported by these educational institutions, should punish, threaten or intimidate students based on what they say on-line. To permit this is to chill free speech. Students who disagreed with what Sethi wrote were free to confront her, debate her, argue with her, vote against her and “unfriend” her. What the various students and the student groups chose to do was bully her and intimidate her, and in doing so threaten all free speech.

3. If the university administrators had any courage, integrity, sense of responsibility or common sense, they would take punitive action against the SGA for acting like the Communist Party under the Soviets or Mao. The university funds these anti-speech tyrants, and is complicit in everything they do. The official statement that the school “continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their constitutional rights” is outright falsehood.  How does allowing organizations funded by and overseen by the school to punish free speech constitute “standing firm”?

Yechhh. University administrators should be recruited directly from the population of annelid worms, since clearly spinal columns are superfluous to their jobs.

4. Rohini Sethi is a little better, I will say grudgingly. However, those who lack the courage to defend their own rights to freedom of speech fail their fellow citizens and the nation as well as themselves. If one is not prepared to fight back when others try to censor you, then consider shutting up, or just allowing the politically powerful to script what you say in public or private. Sethi should not have apologized; she should not have agreed to re-education and indoctrination training, and her statement was capitulation, showing me that her own commitment to freedom of expression and diversity of opinion was weak already:

“I have chosen to take these steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body….”

A typical brainwashed prisoner of war statement, this. ” I decided this on my own, and the threats, abuse, isolation and punishment had nothing to do with it.” Now we know she’s a liar, but a liar for the cause. A private message on social media doesn’t divide anyone or anything, unless they decide to divide themselves. The minority groups made the post divisive: make them be accountable.

“I may have the right to post what I did, but I still should not have….”

That is, “I should not exercise my rights when powerful forces don’t want me to.”

“My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feeling…”

The Pazuzu Excuse!

“and cause many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them.”

..because only people who toe the ideological line, follow partisan cant, and fold in the presence of disagreement can advocate for them.

“I will always continue to learn and be ready to discuss these issues.”

Translation: “Tell me what’s RIGHT, O Ye Wise and Righteous Ones, and I will comply.”

5. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley is increasingly troubled by these types of episodes, which he has exposed here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Of this one he writes,

“The controversy of University of Houston shows how schools are now instilling speech regulation as an accepted part of academic environments. The result is a new generation of students taught that they must conform to majoritarian or official views if they want to be educated or avoid sanctions. The primary responsibility for this rollback on free speech rests with the faculty and administrators of our schools, who have often supported such notion of speech as “microaggressions” or hostile acts under school codes.”

6. Turley also unfortunately fell into the current unethical trend of misleading headlines. “University of Houston Student Suspended And Required To Attend Cultural Events For Writing ‘All Lives Matter'” is just plain false: she wasn’t suspended by the school, not did the school require her to attend anything. She was free to attend classes, and could have, as she should have, told the SGA to go suck eggs. And though it’s a minor point, she was under fore more for the “Forget #BlackLivesMatter” part of her message than the “All Lives Matter” statement.

7. She was 100% right that we should forget #BlackLivesMatter,” however. The movement is based on a lie (“Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”) and asserts a lie, which is that any rational person of any race believes that black lives don’t matter. The group advocates racism and hate; its methods are coercive and divisive, and its rhetoric has been responsible for many deaths, with more to come. They are exactly the wrong advocates for policing reform and justice reform, as their narratives reject core justice principles like due process, equal treatment under the law, probable cause and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Forget BlackLivesMatter indeed.

8. Even if the sentiment wasn’t fair and accurate, however, Rohini Sethi should not have been punished for expressing it.

 

 

19 thoughts on “Observations On The University Of Houston’s Anti-Free Speech Oppression

  1. Houston, Texas. How disappointing. Perhaps we could arrange to transfer title to Louisiana. See how the U of H students like dealing with Cajuns.

  2. Ugh! The University of Houston is getting as bad as the University of Texas, Austin. If I was an alumni, I’d immediately cut off any financial support I was giving to the school and withdraw any kids I had enrolled there to go to Texas A & M.

  3. That was a weird statement from the staffer. The North Korean elite break North Korean laws all the time. Running illegal businesses and other forms of corruption are key ways in which the authorities make money. Whether or not they get in trouble for doing so depends on whether they are in favour with Kim Jong-un.

      • South Korea has its issues as well. Its economy is based on large, family-controlled corporations called chaebols. High-ranking members of these corporations have a reputation for getting away with things (through presidential pardons, light sentences, etc.).

        • Not to mention how those large companies operate.

          I remember reading an entertaining report about the trouble Samsung got into with the Galaxy S2 and copying Apple’s designs. I’m probably really flubbing it, but when auditors showed up at Samsung to gather evidence, they found a massive shred party going on. They even found employees who were physically eating paper evidence because they couldn’t shred it fast enough. The investigator made a comment along the lines of, “How can we expect to compete with a company whose (low-level) employees will eat evidence?”

            • Japan assured it’s future by copying everything from ball-point pens to Leika cameras. Why shouldn’t South Korea try the same tack?

              • Popular myths, dragin, leftovers from the ridicule and disparagement laid on a defeated enemy trying to rebuild and reestablish a viable economy back in the 50s. The GIs brought back tiny paper umbrellas and other cute, colorful cheap items, and Americans wanted more of those cheap “copies” of anything the Japanese could produce at close to no profit. Once they got going again, Japan assured its future by making key developments to the digital revolution of the 70s. I am personally beholden to the inventors and entrepreneurs of that country for a successful series of surgeries over the past two years that freed my body of cancer: all down to miniaturization, robotics, and nanotechnology all developed in Japan (the robotic surgical techniques themselves were developed in France and England; and the chief surgeon herself trained in Czechoslovakia).

                A few other items: Japanese scientists were first to discover downbursts, microbursts, jet streams, agar, and how to measure the intensity of a tornado; and to create the statin class of drugs, and chemically synthesize ephedrine (only to further synthesize the ephedrine into methamphetamine – a bad idea – but it’s tough to stop synthesizing once you get going). The Japanese were first to use general anesthesia and to invent the philosophy of “lean” manufacturing, to develop vectorcardiography, the tooth patch, the lithium battery, the automatic power loom, “instant” noodles, umami (as a separate taste), as well as mathematical determinants and elimination theory, and things with names ten words long, plus KS steel and MKM steel, the QR matrix barcode and the gastro-camera. They created the futures exchange market and contracts in the 1730s and Betamax in the 1970s (sharper and crisper than the longer, lighter, cheaper VHS that won the format wars), and more portable this, that and the others than anywhere else in the world. And art forms, but I won’t get into that because another ethical Texan argued me into the ground about all art being subjective anyway.

                By the way, South Korea, which went through the same kind of post-war reconstruction continues to actively produce original ideas and inventions. These are the people that developed the MP3 systems, the kimchi refrigerator, digital multimedia broadcasting, smart prosthetic skin that can sense pressure, heat and moisture, and even hypothesized the invisible axion.

                The bottom line is that every “developed” country borrows from every other one, including the United States, for different reasons at different times. The notion of “copying” appears mostly in the race for patents. The principle shoring up the bottom line is that good (not great: good) minds DO think alike, and share, sell, license or trade their base knowledge around the world (Putin-land notwithstanding: Sputnik was not put together and got off the ground by copying, as was the word spread around in its day).

                That being said, I think Japan should be severely chastized for corrupting the world with anime, Pokemon, and monosodium glutamate, I would blame them for karaoke too but that turns out to be a Filipino invention.

                • p.s. Right now, my country is busy being original in its inventions of bad jokes for presidential candidates, racist causeless rioters, and college campuses that are fast becoming unsafe spaces for thinkers and speakers. Maybe its time to do some copying.

  4. If you grew up in anything resembling the “typical” American (Eisenhower to Carter era) this is calibrated to leave you seething inside. But after a 2nd look…I tend to want to stroke my chin and gaze balefully in the direction of these zealots. I find myself wondering what 2 kids and a mortgage will do to all those principles later on…and how many new “grey ponytails” will emerge from this little human side show.

  5. For a long time I’ve wondered why all these college administrators grovel on the diversity front. Answer: It’s all about maintaining the flow to their institutions of federal funds. Diversity officers, diversity training, slamming hurtful speech. They want to engage in all of it so when the Feds come and audit them, they can point at all this non-sense. It’s self-interest, pure and simple.

    I can not imagine having to sit through a three day diversity training seminar. Maybe you should get into that business, Jack. It’s got to be a growth industry.

    • Insightful. I have no idea why this happens sometimes. Usually I catch it. It’s as if I have an auto-fill feature that enters the wrong word before I can type the right one. Does anyone else have this problem? I hope? I’ll look at a post and find that I typed “conversationalist” when I meant to type “Comsequentialism.” What IS that?

  6. I’ve done similar word substitutions before. No idea if there’s a name for it. It’s usually similar sounding, but not quite the same, and of course it’s spelled correctly. :p

Leave a Reply to Phlinn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.