Campus Censorship is The Feds’ Fault

Robby Soave:

A candid admission from an anonymous academic in Vox—“I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”—has higher ed spectators on all sides of the ideological spectrum concerned that students’ increasing aversion to offended-ness is forcing academics to dumb down their courses.

But while just about everybody agrees there’s a problem, sheer outrage is incapable of solving it. That’s because federal bureaucrats have declared war on campus free speech and universities would be crazy to defy them, short of a Congressional mandate to do so.

Watch what you say didn’t become the unofficial motto of American campuses by accident, and hyper-offended students don’t strike fear into the hearts of the professoriate because they are physically imposing. Rather, it’s the explicit threat of formal, government-backed sanction that gives a minority of easily-agitated agitators veto power over all aspects of campus life, from the classroom to the dorm room to the rec room. (Not even movie night is safe.)

Vox’s fearful professor has a lot of company these days—many of his colleagues also feel the pressure to self-censor. “we’ve seen bad things happen to too many good teachers—adjuncts getting axed because their evaluations dipped below a 3.0, grad students being removed from classes after a single student complaint, and so on,” he wrote.

Since students have tremendous authority to make life hell for professors, academics are increasingly unwilling to risk irritating them. This can mean ejecting Mark Twain (racially problematic), Greek literature (sexually problematic), and even Shakespeare (racially and sexually problematic) from the lesson plan, just to be on the safe side.