We’ve been hearing about runaway political correctness since the 1980s, and it’s tempting to think that we might be past the worst of it. Matthew Werenczak knows better now, and his hard-earned lesson should be a warning to us all. College students across America are learning to keep their heads down and keep their opinions to themselves. Schools like Syracuse promise freedom of speech — the school’s Student Handbook states that “[s]tudents have the right to express themselves freely on any subject” and that “Syracuse University … welcomes and encourages the expression of dissent.” Werenczak trusted in that promise — and found out what it was worth.
How many Syracuse students, having seen the school’s treatment of Werenczak and its similar treatment of a law student last year, will believe that the school respects its own promises? How many will choose to jeopardize their academic careers by challenging dominant beliefs? And how many will discover that the same administration that promises them freedom of speech will destroy their careers for daring to exercise it?
Robert Shibley is senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.