This past week has seen a series of protests at several college campuses across the nation, with the issues ranging from race relations to the cost of tuition. Freedom of speech has become a key factor in these protests, especially with the establishment of free speech zones on some campuses, which are designated areas for people to exercise their First Amendment rights. But these areas have turned into war zones, in which troublesome students (and probably other people as well) interfere with the First Amendment rights of those wishing to exercise them, whether it be reporters covering the protests or any counter-demonstrations.
Basically, these scenarios are hypocritical, hence the expression “free speech for me, but not for thee.”
When I heard that protests were taking place on several college campuses, it reminded me of the Free Speech Movement that took place during the 1960s. According to Jonathan Leaf’s book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties, this movement started at the University of California-Berkeley in 1964, where a group of student radicals started a series of protests over civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the university being a stooge of big business. Despite some of them being arrested and/or suspended for their actions, the protests would continue.
The administration, which had previously forbade political activism on campus on the grounds that the purpose of a college or university was to get an education and not engage in politics (the exceptions being joining the College Democrats, joining the College Republicans, or participating in off-campus political activities), did little to put a stop to the protests. Such inaction would embolden the protesters, who took advantage of the administration’s capitulation to their demands. Such protests would soon take place on other college campuses throughout America.
The student radicals who led the free speech movement were leftists, and some of them became militants. One example was the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which started out as an advocate of democratic socialism but soon became a group of avowed, militant communists (especially when the Vietnam War intensified).
It should be noted that student radicals were a minority on college campus during the 1960s, which in turn was actually a conservative decade.
And so history appears to be repeating itself, with students calling for heads to roll and various individuals resigning. These student protesters (and their supporters) are the new era of student radicals. The college and university administrators would be wise to take a stand against them instead of giving in.