You’d think that there would be at least a few issues on which Democrats and Republicans could agree, one of them being that we should not encourage the suppression of alternative viewpoints or the violent rejection of free speech on the campuses of our public universities. But even in this seemingly-uncontroversial sphere, here we have some of the top Democrats in the country believing that it’s just fine if raging liberal mobs shut down conservative speech. Because, you know, what are places like UC Berkeley supposed to do? Hire more security officers? Nah, that’s not a wise use of funds. Instead, let’s just give the rioters their way and keep “controversial” speakers as far away from the college as possible.
Well, as long as “controversial” is synonymous with “conservative,” that is.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said that colleges like UC Berkeley were essentially beyond reproach and that they shouldn’t have to make special accommodations for controversial guests like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. She said that Berkeley president Janet Napolitano was a woman of upstanding repute (read: a tried and true liberal Democrat) and that she didn’t need to explain herself to the likes of those who are criticizing the university.
“The president of that university is known to all of us,” Feinstein said. “She was a governor; she headed a 250,000-staff Homeland Security Department here. She is tough, she is strong, she is fair, she is able.”
Good enough, strong enough, and doggone it, people like her.
Another panelist at the hearing, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, took great exception to Feinstein’s defense of the university, and the two got into a heated exchange on more than one occasion.
At one point, Feinstein said, “One of the problems that I have is that there is an expectation that the university handles [the security needs of conservative speakers.] The handling of it means that you have resources to be able to send and those resources know what to do. And particularly for the public university, and particularly for the University of California, there is a constant battle with the legislature over money. So the resources are not always what they might be.”
Volokh replied, “I would think that Berkeley police department would also be able and should be willing to lend police officers to help out. If we are in a position where our police departments are unable to protect free speech, whether it’s universities or otherwise, then yes, indeed, we are in a very bad position.”
And that, in fact, is the position we’re in around the country when it comes to campuses that are increasingly hostile to free speech of the conservative variety. For Feinstein to pretend this is limited to a few controversial speakers – that it has not entangled professors and deans in Missouri, California, and throughout the Ivy League – is for her to deliberately ignore reality.