Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Odd Couple

By Richard Vedder

I am sorry I missed the National Association of Scholars meeting in Washington last weekend (my sidekick Andy Gillen gave the presentation I was going to make because a family emergency kept me away). I would have given a fair amount of money to see the limited lovefest between Anne Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and Cary Nelson of the AAUP. Those two cannot agree on where the sun is going to come up tomorrow morning --East or West?

But they do agree on something. Speech codes are bad ---real bad. Attempts to stifle the free expression of faculty, students, administrators, and the like are doubly repulsive. They are bad because the violate the American Constitution and a tradition of free expression that has made America both great and exceptional. But, secondarily, they are doubly repulsive because they emanate from what are supposed to be the purest citadels of free flow of ideas, the academy.

I think it is time to get more aggressive, and not merely be defensive to these repulsive restrictions by trying to get them ruled unconstitutional, or by embarrassing administrations to drop charges against alleged offenders. I think we should seek legislative action banning the codes, and impose huge fines on institutions and jail sentences of those individuals guilty of persecuting offenders.

If ACTA and AAUP can act together on this, perhaps something can be done. Cary Nelson is a liberal trade unionist, Anne a conservative activist. Together they can make sweet music, and I, for one, am all for it.

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