Think you have the right to freedom of speech? If you're a college student, you might want to think again. A March 4th FOXnews.com report tells the story of John Wahlberg, a 23-year-old senior at Central Connecticut State University who received a visit from the police after stating that the death toll at Virginia Tech might have been lower had the faculty and students been carrying guns during a presentation in a communications class. As it turns out, Wahlberg owns a number of duly registered guns, which he states that he keeps in a locked safe at his off-campus home . . . in what may be the most heartening chapter of this story, no further action was taken against Wahlberg. On first hearing about this violation, my assumption was that the professor who called the police had at best over-reacted to the situation and at worst taken advantage of her position to advance her own political views. After further research, it became clear that this incident was not the anomaly I had first thought.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports several cases where students were sanctioned after supporting policies that would allow students and faculty to carry weapons on campus.
- April 2007: Hamline University student Troy Scheffler was suspended after emailing school administrators regarding his belief that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been prevented if concealed carry was permitted on that campus and urging the administrators to reconsider Hamline's policy against concealed carry. Furthermore, Scheffler was told that he would be required to complete a mental health evaluation overseen by the school administration before he would be allowed to return to his class work.
- May 2008: Tarrant County College refused to allow students and faculty to carry empty holsters on campus as part of a nation-wide demonstration supporting policies allowing concealed carry on college campuses. A month prior to the planned event, Brett Poulos sent an email to the faculty informing them of the planned demonstration. He was informed that the demonstration would not be permitted campus wide and must be limited to a 12' x 12' area labeled the Free Speech Zone. And all of these years I thought the Constitution guaranteed the right to free speech nationwide, how silly of me!
- May 2008: Steven Barber turned in a short story for a creative-writing class he was taking at the University of Virginia's College at Wise, which dealt with an individual on the edge of a breakdown and made references to murder and suicide. The college responded by searching the student's room and then having him committed to a psychiatric institution when guns were found in his room. Furthermore, Barber was expelled in spite of the fact that the psychiatrists who examined him during his commitment found that he was of no danger to himself or others.
Even if you are not a supporter of concealed carry laws (on or off campus), the cases presented above are clear examples of violations of first amendment rights to free speech and the violations are not limited to "hot button" issues or a reaction to tragedies like the massacre at Virginia Tech.
- Connect Savannah reported that Armstrong Atlantic State University administrators reduced the budget for a university owned paper is response to a change in editorial policy. This change involved a less deferential stance toward the administration.
- Campus Watch reports that the University of California, Berkley published a course description that encouraged "conservative thinkers . . . to seek other sections". While the description was rewritten and administrators backpedaled, one has to wonder how such a description made it into the catalog in the first place.
- Inside Higher Ed reports that a conservative Christian group has been denied recognition, funding, and other amenities for refusing to buckle to diversity codes at a number of universities.
- USAToday reports that a student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa was asked to remove a Confederate flag as it might violate a policy that was being drafted.
Before I get branded as a conservative bigot, let me clarify that I find all of the offenses above heinous not because they violate conservative ideals, but because they violate the first amendment rights of Americans. I would be equally enraged if a student was expelled for giving a presentation that supported gun control . . . If a course description encouraged minorities to seek other sections . . . If a group that was open only to minorities was sanctioned for not allowing men or Caucasians. . . If someone displaying an Israeli flag was asked to remove it.
Regardless of where an individual's speech falls on the conservative-liberal spectrum, the Constitution protects the right to free speech, a right that is being trampled on by the administrators of colleges and universities across the country.