Education

‘Problem’: Offensive speech. ‘Solution’: Censorship and vandalism?

Photo of Robert Shibley
Robert Shibley
Senior Vice President, FIRE

Here’s a First Amendment pro tip: vandalism is illegal no matter what reason you think you have. Some people think you have the right to vandalize offensive speech or “hate speech.” You don’t. Columnist and commentator Mona Eltahawy found this out the hard way last week, when New York police arrested her for vandalizing a “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad” subway poster that she didn’t like. Too bad Sam Houston State didn’t likewise recognize obvious vandalism when it happened there.

But it’s really no surprise. Universities, which were intended to be the ultimate marketplace of ideas in a free society, have instead become centers for the spread of repressive ideas, with college administrators and some professors providing the intellectual support for the cause of censorship. Let’s hope that the current national discussion about free speech wakes Americans up to the fact that the most dangerous push for censorship in this country isn’t coming from abroad — it’s coming from their alma maters.

Robert Shibley is the senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).