Friday, December 15, 2017

The Free Speech Standard At UConn Should Be The First Amendment


It would be a grave error to interpose between speakers at UConn and their audiences an administrative apparat whose sole purpose is to decide which speakers are acceptable.

It may still be possible to learn some lessons from an incident that occurred at UConn in which a speaker invited to address the university’s Republican Club, Lucian Wintrich, had been successfully shouted down and later arrested by UConn police. Wintrich, a White House reporter for The Gateway Pundit, may have been arrested to assure his safety from the fascists who shouted him down, stole his speech, and later sought to confront him as he left the campus.

Charges leading to his arrest were quickly dropped by the prosecutor during a court appearance, and new charges were brought against the thief who had stolen Wintrich’s address, a just resolution since the thief, student adviser at Quinebaug Valley Community College Catherine Gregory, was the aggressor who had, along with her cheering section, intentionally precipitated a successful fascist effort to deny Wintrich his First Amendment rights.

It is important to note 1) that UConn assented to the speaker chosen by the Republican Club; 2) the group that shut down the speech could not have been reacting to a text they found objectionable, since the speaker was not permitted to deliver his remarks; 3) their effort was directed at a speaker, not a text, and; 4) the Constitution, statutory law and common sense, sometimes uncommon among college administrators, all affirm that an effort to limit speech pro-actively is, to put it in the most vulgar terms, stupid. Perhaps, more seriously, it is an invitation to remain stupid.

In a remarkable reversal of fortune, Wintrich has been vindicated in court, and at least one of his tormentors has been properly charged. A somewhat left leaning Hartford paper noted, “Fascists have historically risen to power by muzzling their enemies, particularly at universities. Ms. Gregory shut down Mr. Wintrich at the Nov. 28 episode by grabbing his notes and walking off with them.” How refreshing to find a left leaning liberal publication rising resolutely to the defense of liberty.

Prior to this reversal of fortune, President of UConn Susan Herbst had issued a directive accurately summarized by Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer: “So, Herbst says, UConn will make rules about the people student groups can invite to speak. Student groups will have to ‘appreciate who exactly intends to come here, what they intend to do, what the costs associated with that visit will be, and how a speaker may impact the campus community.’”

The Herbst directive, it should be noticed, creates a board that will be an un-Godly respecter and disrespecter of persons.

Some persons are to be allowed to speak, while others are to be disinvited. And by whom? In any election, Josef Stalin used to say, votes don’t matter. What matters is “who counts the votes” -- just so. And in matters of speech at UConn, Constitutional provisions will not matter, assuming Herbst is able to create her censorship board. What will matter is – who sits on the board, who counts the votes. One may be fairly certain that voting to admit this or that person will be heavily weighted against conservative speakers, which is the case in some colleges and phony institutions of higher learning.

Bill Buckley, a prophet unloved in his own country, used to say that he would rather be governed by the first hundred people chosen at random from the phone book than the Harvard law school faculty. The Republican Club at UConn might similarly assert that it would rather be governed by the first hundred members of its club than censor boards created by administrators who are constitutionally unfriendly to the prescriptions of Bill Buckley.  

Herbst is not proposing to limit speech because a specific text might cause a disturbance among people who are too easily disturbed. That cannot be done because it is not possible to assess the inflammatory nature of a speech before it is given. Besides, the pre-censorship of speech has long been frowned upon in a country that instituted the First Amendment to assure that disturbers of the peace such as Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams should not be transported back to England with gags in their mouths and iron bracelets adorning their wrists.

It may also be important to point out that college students on the brink of adulthood are not third graders. At some point in a student’s progress from infantilism to adulthood, educators needn’t any longer act in place of students’ parents. At some point in a student’s development, the doctrine in loco parenti becomes an unnecessary encumbrance, a positive bar to education.

Following the court’s disposition of the case, it would be liberating, though unlikely, should Herbst, consulting the Constitution and the never-ending struggle to prevent Stalinists from counting the votes, contact the UConn Republican Club and urge them to re-invite Wintrich to give another address, this time celebrating UConn’s valiant defense of free speech -- security to be provided by the UConn police.

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