Sanction UB students who deter free speech
Founding Father and first President George Washington stated that “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Yet several days ago at the University at Buffalo, a gang of protesters was permitted to abrogate the free speech rights of their fellow UB students by shouting down invited speaker Robert Spencer, ultimately resulting in his presentation being abridged. The discourtesy and demeanor of these protesters was an embarrassment to UB and to Western New York.
UB publishes a list of proscribed (forbidden) behaviors for its students, which includes the following: “Participation in a campus demonstration which disrupts the normal operations of the university and infringes on the rights of other members of the university community.”
Administrators have a duty to investigate this incident and properly sanction those individual students and student groups that perpetrated this violation of UB policy. Effective policies to ensure free speech rights for all students and invited speakers are also warranted.
Freedom of speech is not properly regarded as a zero sum game. Removal of anyone’s free speech rights benefits no one in a democracy. Shouting down someone with whom there is disagreement is a form of censorship.
Students at a taxpayer-funded university like UB, being educated in part to reside in and strengthen American democracy, must not have their free speech rights abrogated by any of their misguided peers or anyone else.
Daniel H. Trigoboff, Ph.D.