There is a dumb joke in an old “I Love Lucy” episode that this story brings to mind.
Lucy is outraged when she reads that there is am all- filly race at the local race track and misunderstands. Horrified, she erupts, “How long has this been going on? They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs!” Ricky promptly explains why she was being an alarmist.
I hope that somehow the news item’s reporter got the facts wrong or I am missing something, because this story is far worse than racing little girls, and nowhere near as funny.
The University of Arizona is accepting student applications for what administrators call “social justice advocates.” The job requires the students to “report any bias incidents or claims to appropriate Residence Life staff,” and pays the student workers $10 an hour. They’re expected to work 15 hours a week, earning $600 a month in taxpayer funds—this is a public university—to police their fellow students speech and conduct.
Part of the job description reads:
“The position also aims to increase understanding of one’s own self through critical reflection of power and privilege, identity and intersectionality, systems of socialization, cultural competency and allyship as they pertain to the acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance of differences. Finally, this position intends to increase a student staff member’s ability to openly lead conversations, discuss differences and confront diversely insensitive behavior.”
Their #1 job, however, is to report “bias claims” so the student miscreant involved can face a Star Chamber, or the university equivalent. Such a claim can be what someone regards as an outright act of “racism,’ which presumably could include anything from using a racial epithet to saying Maxine Waters is an idiot, to “microaggressions” like “cultural misappropriation,” or calling a transgender student by the wrong pronoun. The social justice advocate’s job will also include “fostering dialogue” related to “diversity, multiculturalism and social justice”—in other words, to be a full time left-wing scold— and to “increase awareness of diverse identities” while “promoting inclusive communities.”
I wonder if being stuffed in a closet or hung on a hook will be considered a “biased incident” by these paid political correctness snitches? That is, after all, what would happen to them on a healthy campus. Will they have little badges and whistles? I think they should get badges and whistles. Or get a uniform like Rolf at the climax of “The Sound of Music.”
They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs!
This can’t be real, could it? Campus culture has not become this perverted, this totalitarian, this nuts, has it? Maybe this is a clever experiment by the University…sure, that has to be what’s going on. The school wants to see if students can tell real “1984”-style, Soviet indoctrination tactics and distinguish them from the lesser, more tolerable outrages the progressives are trying to use to strangle liberty and free expression in 2017. This is brilliant! The University wants to know how many student-weasel hybrids will sign up to spy on fellow students, and the applicants will be required to take some special training in “The Core Values Of The United States,” “The Constitution, ” and “How Not To Be A Dick.” Maybe they want to see how long it takes for a student march on the administration building protesting this oppression and harassment.
That better be the explanation, but I fear it is not. Just this week, the Washington Post editorialized that colleges should “make crystal clear that racist signs, symbols and speech are off-limits.” This is the censorship and speech-policing that what we once called the liberal side of our political spectrum has embraced to its disgrace and the nation’s endangerment.
In the same paper, Prof. Eugene Volokh correctly calls the Post’s exhortation what it is: an attack on free expression and academic freedom on college campuses:
This is an editorial, the product of carefully considered labor on the part of a group of people, not an extemporaneous remark; when it says “racist … speech” (especially right after a sentence talking about political advocacy during a presidential campaign), I assume it means what it’s saying.
And the editorial’s proposal is an awful idea. At public universities, it would violate the First Amendment; at private universities, it would violate many of the universities’ stated commitments to open debate, as well as basic principles of academic freedom.
1. The Supreme Court has made “crystal clear” that the government may not discriminate based on viewpoint, even in limited public fora such as university open spaces (or for that matter even university programs for funding student speech). Lower courts have consistently struck down campus speech codes aimed at supposedly bigoted speech. See, e.g., Dambrot v. Central Michigan Univ., 55 F.3d 1177, 1184-85 (6th Cir. 1995); DeJohn v. Temple Univ., 537 F.3d 301, 316-17, 320 (3d Cir. 2008); McCauley v. Univ. of V.I., 618 F.3d 232, 237-38, 250 (3d Cir. 2010); Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason Univ., 993 F.3d 386, 388-89, 391, 393 (4th Cir. 1993); College Republicans v. Reed, 523 F. Supp. 2d 1005, 1010-11, 1021 (N.D. Cal. 2007); Roberts v. Haragan, 346 F. Supp. 2d 853, 870-72 (N.D. Tex. 2004); Bair v. Shippensburg Univ., 280 F. Supp. 2d 357, 373 (M.D. Pa. 2003); Booher v. Bd. of Regents of N. Ky. Univ., 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11404, *28-*31 (E.D. Ky. 1998); UWM Post, Inc. v. Regents, 774 F. Supp. 1163, 1165-66, 1173, 1177 (E.D. Wis. 1991); Doe v. Univ. of Mich., 721 F. Supp. 852, 856, 864-66 (E.D. Mich. 1989). And in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010), the Court gave students’ freedom to “express any viewpoint they wish — including a discriminatory one” as an example of “this Court’s tradition of protect[ing] the freedom to express the thought that we hate” (quotation marks omitted). There is no First Amendment exception for “hate speech” or “racist signs, symbols and speech.”
2. And beyond their unconstitutionality, bans on “racist … speech” would, of course, extend far beyond just threats or even epithets. Many substantive claims may be easily labeled racist, in the sense of being generalizations that express a negative claim about a racial group, whether they are claims about blacks being criminals, whites being an oppressor race, Hispanic immigration being bad for the country (ethnicity is generally treated much like race in legal rules and university policies), and so on. And of course many other claims are routinely labeled racist as well, even if they focus not on race but on religion (condemnation of Islam is routinely labeled “racist”), immigration (calls to deport illegal aliens, or otherwise limit immigration, are routinely labeled “racist” even if they call for broad enforcement of the law), foreign nations (harsh condemnation of Israel is often labeled anti-Semitic, in the sense of being hostile to Jews as an ethnic group) and so on. Some such advocacy may be motivated by racial or ethnic hostility, while some might not be; but all such advocacy that runs against university administrators’ political views would be deterred when “university administrators” “make crystal clear” that “racist … speech” — racist in the views of whatever disciplinary committee is making decisions — is “off-limits.”
Plus of course bans on racist speech would hardly stay limited to speech that is hostile based on race, or on ethnicity. Naturally there would then be calls for similar bans on sexist speech, speech critical of particular religions, anti-gay speech, anti-transgender speech, and so on — and those would suppress an even broader range of debate.
The Post editorial and the U. of A.’s hired PC enforcers spring from the same dread sickness in the culture wars. If you encounter someone who defends this movement, fear them. Rebuke them. They threaten everything great about this nation.
The odds are also 100 to 1 that they think President Trump firing James Comey proves that he should be impeached. Just ask them.