Free Speech on Campus: Is Trump Moving in Right Direction?

Students with a leftist bent have stirred controversy in  recent years by protesting the speeches by right-wing advocates on their campus and, in some instances, barring the rightists/conservatives from appearing.

President Trump on March 2 Trump announced his intent to issue an executive order that would make federal research funding contingent on whether a given college adequately protects free speech.

A Columbia University professor, Musa al-Gharbi, responded with an op-ed “Trump’s proposal to enforce campus free speech will only hurt conservatives.”

Here is my comment:

I oppose Trump in general, but I share his concern that leftists barring their opponents from speaking on campus poses a serious danger to freedom of speech. An Executive Order, much less one from Trump, may not be the answer. But I am glad that a president is using his office in support of one of our basic rights.

And Mr. al-Musa has done his viewpoint more harm than good. He confuses his strong defense of his own self-interests with being a neutral observer offering an objective viewpoint. My judgment is shaped by being filtered through my experience of growing up in the segregated South.

This paragraph in particular caught my attention (redacted for space): “Conservatives have long appreciated that…the success of government initiatives is typically dependent upon local knowledge and local buy-in. Absent these, well-intentioned efforts tend to fail and often cause great harm…As a consequence, conservatives consistently assert that…top-down approaches to social problems are unlikely to yield the intended results.”

Let me substitute a few words that to make my point: “Southern segregationists have long appreciated that…the success of government initiatives is typically dependent upon local knowledge and local buy-in. Absent these, well-intentioned efforts tend to fail and often cause great harm…As a consequence, segregationists consistently assert that…top-down approaches to social problems are unlikely to yield the intended results.”

The segs claimed that laws passed in Washington would not change morality. Well, maybe not, but they did end legal segregation, assure blacks equal access to public accommodations, and significantly strengthen their civil rights. Please, Mr. al-Musa, don’t dust off the old arguments of the segregationist to explain to me why federal intervention to protect civil rights on college campuses is unnecessary and, in the end, self-defeating.

-Tom Barksdale

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