’60’s Era Campus Free Speechniks: Fought the Old Boss, became the New Boss

What happens when young co-eds “fight the power” and win a loosening of on-campus speech codes? Why, they seek to reimpose them when they become “the power.” As Greg Lukianoff and Will Creeley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) explain in a campus free speech expose in today’s Providence Phoenix (Via N4N):

College administrators didn’t decide to start cracking down on student speech just because of Facebook’s popularity. Despite the fact that such institutions rely on free and open exchange to serve their societal functions, universities both public and private have been policing student speech for decades. While we do ourselves no favors imagining that there was ever a time in collegiate history that students’ rights were perfectly respected, the campus free-speech movement of the 1960s and ’70s was highly successful. The sad irony is that many from the generation that fought so hard for free speech in the ’60s and ’70s were the pioneers of speech codes and PC restrictions in the ’80s and ’90s and that we still see today.

Yes, it’s only “free speech” if they agree with it. Yet, there is a reason behind the speech codes: “In an attempt to prevent these claims, educational institutions have adopted a corporate risk-management posture.” By this, they explain:

…speech codes are maintained by schools in no small part due to a deeply held fear of civil liability for harassment lawsuits arising from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination — including sexual harassment — in any education program receiving federal funding. Plaintiffs in meritorious sexual-harassment lawsuits stand to win large damage awards, and the sheer number of those suits has become quite significant. Even when the claim is truly frivolous, the cost of mounting a defense is substantial.

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