Pro-Free Speech Students Reclaim Campus Expression From the Fascists

Amidst the modern overwhelming rancidness of illiberal, Enlightenment-hating, antediluvian campus fascists violently rioting and shouting down university speakers whose ideas offend their “social justice warrior” snowflake sensibilities, the University of Chicago has consistently managed to stand above the fray.  In early 2015, Chicago’s president-appointed Committee on Freedom of Expression produced a refreshingly pro-free speech administrative report, which was ultimately circulated amongst similarly-minded institutions of higher learning as the eponymous “Chicago principles,” and even prompted then-Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens to write glowingly about his alma mater in a widely-shared column.  Chicago again made headlines last August for its decision to tell all first-year students that, as an institution, it emphatically rejects “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”  This past February, the Journal once again celebrated the University’s intellectual and moral leadership on this issue.

Now, with modern campus brownshirts pusillanimously causing mayhem from Middlebury College all the way to UC-Berkeley, Chicago is once again assuming the mantle of national leadership.  Specifically, my dear friend Matthew Foldi, a current third-year at the college and a precocious activist who appeared on Fox News last August to discuss the University’s strong anti-“safe space”/”trigger warning” stance, worked closely with the University’s administration to organize an initial pro-free speech national student conference, which took place this past weekend in the Windy City and included 25 student leaders from around 20 different colleges.  Students heard from pro-free speech speakers hailing from across the political spectrum, with the ultimate goal of crafting a unified statement of principles to widely disperse.

Foldi, as the University of Chicago College Republicans’ president and a passionate pro-Israel advocate (he is the nephew of prominent American-Israeli pundit Caroline Glick and, truthfully, is just an all-around awesome guy except for the lamentable fact that he is…somehow…a vegetarian), is no stranger to the censorious bed-wetting temper tantrums of the anti-intellectual freedom crowd.  He describes thusly the impetus for his working to organize the national student leader conference:

Far too many believe that college students monolithically support shutting down speech.  Some of the bravest activists I know are standing up for free speech and expression, from California to the Midwest to New England, and beyond.  We think this meeting was particularly important because it is a chance to show how an entirely student-run group can come together and work to change a dominant narrative.  We’re already incredibly encouraged by the feedback we’ve received from around the nation, and are looking forward to continuing this momentum.

Why do this?  A key component of a college education is challenging our beliefs, and free and open discourse is a crucial component of that.  Without rigorous inquiry, education is incomplete and meaningless.  The recent violence at events from across the country is deeply disturbing.  Additionally, our discourse has suffered with people siloing themselves from others who disagree with them.  It was fantastic to have students from all over the country of all ideologies at the conference, all of whom agree that this is an issue worth fighting for.

The first annual free speech national student conference was successful, and Foldi worked with all attendees to craft a statement of principles.  The full statement reads:

WHY WE’RE HERE AND WHO WE ARE:

The Free Speech Movement began as an entirely student-led initiative.  However, free speech has been increasingly undermined by attempts of students and administrators alike to silence those with whom they disagree.  We seek to reclaim that original tradition with this student-created Statement of Principles.

We, the undersigned, stand united in our shared conviction that free expression is critical to our society, in spite of our differing backgrounds, perspectives, and ideologies.

WHAT WE BELIEVE:

A central purpose of education is to teach students to challenge themselves and engage with opposing perspectives.  Our ability to listen to, wrestle with, and ultimately decide between contending viewpoints fosters mutual understanding as well as personal and societal growth.  The active defense of free and open discourse is crucial for our society to continue to thrive as a democracy premised on the open debate of ideas.

The only way to achieve this is by cultivating a culture where all are free to communicate without fear of censorship or intimidation.  While some speech may be objectionable and even hateful, constitutionally protected speech ought to be held and enforced as the standard and must not be infringed upon.  As Justice Louis Brandeis observed exactly ninety years ago, “those who won our independence believed . . . that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievance and proposed remedies,” and that “the fitting remedy for evil counsels” is not disruption, violence, or suppression, “but good ones.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Our vision is to foster a nationwide community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other friends who support free expression.  If you share our passion for free speech, viewpoint diversity, and open discourse, please sign onto this Statement of Principles and encourage your community to do the same.

I am a proud University of Chicago alumnus this week, and I also could not be prouder of my good friend Matthew Foldi.  Together, along with other pro-free speech student leaders such as Foldi’s own cousin Steven Glick, the forces of intellectual freedom and open discourse can—and will—rebuff the modern campus fascists.

In the interim, you can help this noble cause by lending your name to the Statement of Principles.

College Students Are Using Student Loans To Finance Spring Break Fun

I can remember my college days at the University of Georgia way back in…well, let’s just say it was a few years ago. It was easy to keep my education and the fun that went along with being in college separate. I wasn’t a partier, so I didn’t really do the whole crazy Spring Break thing, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined using the money set aside for my education to get wild at Panama City Beach.

Seems like that’s not the case these days. Just when we thought that portions of the millennial generation couldn’t get any more frustrating, along comes evidence that a staggering percentage of college students are using federal student loan money to party.

study conducted by LendEDU discovered that 30.6% of college students use their loans to pay for their spring break trips. According to The New York Post, this rate is higher than a figure quoted in another study done last year; that study suggested roughly 20% of students spent their loans not only on spring break, but also on dining out and other forms of entertainment.

While using loans to pay for debauchery is not illegal, Greg McBride, a chief financial analyst of Bankrate.com, told The New York Post  that “students should minimize their borrowing during their college years and live a sparse lifestyle.” He pointed out that some individuals feel compelled to spend their loan cash unwisely after seeing what other students do for their spring breaks.

Let that sink in for a second. Students are using the money that the government loans them to pay for their education for beach trips, restaurant meals, drinks, and concerts. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we refi.

This behavior goes to show how ridiculous the federal student loan program is in its current iteration – and why it has contributed to the insane rise in college tuition costs. As Charlie King of Turning Point USA noted in a PragerU video:

According to Bloomberg News, since 1978 the cost of a college education has gone up by over 1000 percent. Way past the rate of inflation. Tuition alone at many colleges is 20, 40, even 50 thousand dollars a year! So, how do you pay for it? Answer: student loans, loans that the government is happy to give you since they collect the interest. You don’t have to be a finance major to figure out that all these student loans give colleges no incentive to cut costs. Instead, it gives them every incentive to raise costs. Higher tuition obviously means more money for the college.

No wonder so many college students run around demanding more free stuff. Next thing you know, they’ll be asking for free beer and sunburn relief on the beach.

Want Free Speech? Get a Permit

On Wednesday a federal lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of students at Kellogg Community College, who claim their First Amendment rights were violated when they were thrown in jail for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.

What could possibly warrant jail time at an institution of higher education – also known as the land that encourages a free exchange of ideas?

According to the complaint, Kellogg Community College requires students to obtain a permit from college officials before they are able to engage in any sort of expression on campus. If officials don’t like the content of the expression submitted in the permit request, their “Speech Permit Policy” gives them the ability to restrict the students speech if it does not:

“support the mission of Kellogg Community College (KCC) or the mission of a recognized college entity or activity.”

In addition to having full control over the content, they also have an unwritten speech zone policy that restricts student to only be able to express themselves in one certain area. What happens if you don’t get your free speech permit and/or express yourself outside of that one location on campus? You’re in violation of the code of conduct and could be expelled.

What is this place? (Sadly, while this seems like it has to be fake news, this is just an example of what so many colleges and universities have become.)

Kellogg Community College is a small public college in Battle Creek, Michigan, and yes, in case you were wondering, they have a section on their website dedicated to The Center for Diversity and Innovation that strives to:

“…be the catalyst and collaborative partner in the community toward the creation of a more equitable and inclusive Battle Creek.”

Where was the “equitable and inclusive” atmosphere back in September when Michelle Gregoire and Brandon Withers, both students in the Young Americans for Liberty student organization, decided to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution? Great question. Let’s recap the series of events.

In September, Gregoire, Withers and three other students were handing out pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions outside of the performing arts building on campus. They were ordered to stop, as a result of not having a permit, and not being in the campus’s “free speech zone.” Officials also claimed that the students were “impeding students’ access to education,” despite the fact that they were not blocking anything, or pursuing students who weren’t interested in what they had to say. When the students told officials they were going to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights, college officials had three of the students thrown in jail and charged with trespassing – charges that were soon dismissed (shocking).

Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is what happened when the LGBT student group on campus decided to violate the free speech zone and roam the student center just one year earlier – absolutely nothing.

While these free speech zone policies are popping up on college campuses across the country, Travis Barham, Esq., lead counsel for the case at Alliance Defending Freedom, confirmed in my phone call with him that doesn’t make it right.

“The ‘free speech zone’ policies are in direct violation of the First Amendment. The only ‘permit’ students need is the U.S. Constitution.”

Because I do my best to be a real journalist (not the Buzzfeed Ben Smith kind), I reached out to Kellogg Community College. They replied with the following written statement:

“Kellogg Community College learned yesterday that an organization, the Alliance Defending Freedom, has announced it is filing a complaint against the College in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The complaint itself has yet to be delivered to KCC; therefore, the details of the complaint have yet to be reviewed. The College, which takes seriously any allegation that one’s freedom of expression has been violated, will address this matter through legal counsel.”

Fairly standard, canned response. Glad to hear they are now supposedly going to make an effort to “take seriously any allegation that one’s freedom of expression has been violated.” I wonder if anyone at Kellogg Community College ever thought a good place to start would have been not making students get a permit for free speech and confine them to a small space in the first place?  I have a lot of questions about this place after writing this story.

In closing, I share Alliance Defending Freedom’s aspiration for the case (as stated in my interview with Travis Barham, Esq.):

“We hope to remind Kellogg Community College that the First Amendment is not only the law of the land, but also the law of campus.”

I also hope that if you, or someone you know, is a conservative college student who suspects his or her First Amendment rights are being violated, that you’ll spread the word about Alliance Defending Freedom – they provide free legal counsel to help college conservatives…and college conservatives need all the help they can get.

Buckle Up, Buttercups: Everything Will Be Fine

Following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, turmoil has ensued in major cities all across the country. Protestors–primarily white, college-aged liberals–have taken it to the streets to challenge Trump’s legitimacy as President-elect.

While there may be some peaceful protestors, a large chunk of those participating in these demonstrations are not being productive. Are they cognizant of how much time they are hogging from law enforcement? Are they aware that kicking and screaming–including questioning the legitimacy of the election results–renders little to improve society? Are they demonstrating that “love trumps hate” only when their ideas prevail?

As a result of Tuesday’s outcome, American universities have offered emotional counseling, therapy dogs, hosted “cry-in’s”, and offered Play-doh to calm students’ nerves. Even more hilarous were the calls for my home state of California to secede from the United States. Here’s more from Wall Street Journal:

Colleges nationwide scrambled to help students process Republican Donald Trump’s stunning election victory. They’re acknowledging that many students were up late watching results and so may not be at their sharpest in early-morning lectures. More so, they’re responding to a widespread sense of shock and despair on campuses to the victory of a candidate who offended Mexicans, Gold Star mothers, Muslims and the disabled during the course of the campaign.

The touchy-feely approach won some catty comments from skeptics, calling students “snow-flakes” for their inability to handle the result. But schools said the concerns were real for many students.

“People are frustrated, people are just really sad and shocked,” said Trey Boynton, the director of multi-ethnic student affairs at the University of Michigan. “A lot of people are feeling like there has been a loss. We talked about grief today and about the loss of hope that this election would solidify the progress that was being made.”

There was a steady flow of students entering Ms. Boynton’s office Wednesday. They spent the day sprawled around the center, playing with Play-Doh and coloring in coloring books, as they sought comfort and distraction.

Buckle up, buttercups: You cannot protest and scream your way to electoral victory. Or even employment.

Why the bizarre, cry-baby reactions?

Many of these protesters were expecting to be taken care of with so-called government “freebies” had Hillary Clinton won the presidency. Additionally, many have been sheltered and coddled by their professors and campus administrators who have poisoned their minds with trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and hypersensitivity to real world scenarios. I would know, I graduated from a top public school and saw inklings of this behavior manifest when I attended UC-San Diego from 2009-2012. Here’s how administrators at my alma mater responded to Trump’s election:

Following college graduation, I worked with conservative and libertarian college students studying in the Northeast during my nearly four-year tenure at Leadership Institute. The situation up there in New England was worse than I thought. The countless instances of leftist bias were astounding and yet, many students weren’t willing to fight back or feared jeopardizing their grades if they got involved. Nevertheless, many students were bold enough to reach out to the organization and combat the ignorance on their campuses. It’s encouraging to see brave college students balance out their classmates, so be sure to inspire more of this!

Elections have consequences–for better or worse. This election cycle was a repudiation of President Obama’s policies and that of the Far Left’s agenda. Regular folks of all stripes, shades, and backgrounds voted against Hillary Clinton. Accept the facts.

Did conservatives demonstrate against and question the validity of the 2008 and 2012 elections? Hell no we didn’t. So now it’s time to suck it up like adults and accept the results. Use this occasion to hold Trump accountable and make him keep his promises, not undermine our Republic with impish, petulant behavior. Are you better than a five-year-old? You should be.

Are universities lost causes? Not entirely. While the majority of students attending college today appear lost, there is a silent majority of those fighting back through organizations like Young Americans for Liberty, Students Supporting the Second Amendment, and Leadership Institute, to name a few.

My advice for those protesting right now: Get off the streets and educate yourself about the world around you. Talk to someone you politically disagree with and hear them out. Learn how the electoral process works. Understand that people wholly reject and dislike big government policies forced down their throats. Read and study documents, books, and articles that may be opposite of your worldview. Learn to accept reality: you don’t always get what you want in life. And more importantly, get out of the academic bubble, away from the city, and pick up useful skills. Unleash your human potential and help make this country greater than it already is!

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” – Ronald Reagan