‘Crisis? What crisis?’ That’s often the response of complacent academics when people like me draw attention to the erosion of free speech on campus. For instance, Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, wrote an essay for the Atlantic last June entitled ‘Free Speech on Campus is Doing Just Fine, Thank You.’
But is everything rosy in the groves of academe? I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back on the year gone by and see if 2019 was a good or bad one for intellectual freedom in American higher education.
In the Atlantic, Bollinger points out that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a campaign group that stands up for free speech in universities, found only 11 instances of speakers being prevented from addressing college audiences in 2018. ‘This is a minuscule fraction of the universe of speakers who express their views annually on American campuses,’ he writes. Unfortunately, in 2019 FIRE found the number had grown to 17, an increase of 65 percent. Another thing to note is that ten of these disinvitations were at the behest of left-wing students and only two of right-wing activists. (To read more, click here.)