Call in the cops. Release the tear gas. Make arrests. Convict the arrested. Give the convicts real punishments.
Repeat those steps, again and again.
That's how colleges and the civil authorities with jurisdiction over them should react to campus protests that turn violent, or that block free access to public spaces, or that physically interrupt people's work or "occupy" their workspaces, or that shut down the right of others to speak.
It is long past time to overrule mob rule, to protect the rights of interested listeners to listen, to insist that words and viewpoints are not violence and should not be met with violence. And it's time to teach spoiled brats that they are the ones abusing an unearned privilege — the privilege of higher education — if they use force or its threat or even their vocal cords to deny free speech to others that the agitators denounce for being "privileged."
These conclusions are catalyzed by the growing trend on college campuses in which hoodlums who consider themselves students assert the spurious right, of their own volition and without appeal to duly constituted authority, to deny others the benefit of long-established rights.
The most recent and perhaps most disturbing of these incidents occurred Thursday when Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., closed down for the day due to a serious threat of violence. The closure came after weeks of tension stemming from an April 12 "Day of Absence" in which all white people were "invited" to leave campus for a 24-hour period.
A self-described "progressive" professor of biology, Bret Weinstein, had refused to abide by this race-based nonsense. When word got out about his resistance, campus radicals confronted him so menacingly that he and his class were forced off campus. Apparently, it was an unpardonable sin for Weinstein to have written that "on a college campus, one's right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color."
Of course, the Evergreen unrest comes on the heels of controversial, speech-denying incidents at Middlebury, Berkeley, Claremont McKenna, UCLA and others, in addition to even more numerous examples of over-the-top whining about the supposed insults posed by the very presence of speakers deemed insufficiently sensitive.
These bullying, anti-liberal tactics run afoul of the basic understanding, as it was put by a group of concerned Middlebury alumni, that "robust debate and diverse inquiry are essential to the search for truth."
The topic at hand is not whether liberal inquiry has more merit than speech-denying intimidation – of course it does – but how the latter thuggery should be handled. Should administrators and civil authorities just meekly pat the hoodlums' heads and express condolences for their pain even while offering mild defenses of free speech? Should they make more concessions to the protesters so as to assuage their feelings or maintain the peace?
No, and no. There is a huge difference between the protesters' self-chosen force against the rights of others and the police's use of measured force under the law, which is sanctioned by democratic processes, to protect the rights of others. The latter is not a diminution of freedom but a bulwark of it.
When he was governor of California, Ronald Reagan understood this. When riots broke out at Berkeley in 1969, Reagan sent in the National Guard. A thousand protesters were arrested and 200 booked with felonies. Reagan said that society cannot "let young people think that they have the right to choose the laws they would obey [and those they won't] as long as they are doing it in the name of social protest." Five years earlier, he had said society cannot "allow a great university to be brought to its knees by a noisy dissident minority … [or] meet their neurotic vulgarities with vacillation and weakness."
Reagan believed in force, under law, rightly used, so that everybody else on campus — all those other students not protesting — could benefit from what he called "the high and noble purpose of a university." In other words, his goal was to protect the free inquiry of free minds willing to brook dissent so as to learn from other viewpoints and advance the human store of knowledge.
Reagan was right. We should follow his example.
Quin Hillyer (@QuinHillyer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a former associate editorial page editor for the Washington Examiner.
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