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At Allegheny College, civility at the expense of free speech?

Photo of Derek Dye
Derek Dye
Administrator, The Repeal Pledge

Yesterday Allegheny College, my alma mater, awarded its third annual prize for Civility in Public Life to 16 Democrats, and 4 Republicans on the fifth birthday of the tea party’s inception.

The 20 women of the Senate credited as having played key roles in ending the 2013 government shutdown will receive the award — for, you guessed it, being nice. That’s great. America hated the shutdown and women are behaving like ladies instead of feminists.

But there’s a partisan agenda behind the award — one which a college claiming to foster a welcoming, “inclusive” community obviously shouldn’t be advocating.

Amusingly, Allegheny is praising these “nice” senators in the same month the college administration — not students! — destroyed pro-life flyers distributed to professors and sent out a panicky campus alert to scold the “intimidating” exercise of First Amendment rights. The Daily Caller reported on the incident, explaining that while Allegheny promises students “access to a free exchange of ideas,” the college administration’s action demonstrate a double standard for students advocating pro-life views. Last year, a feminist group on campus held a sex toy and masturbation tutorial show in the chapel on campus. Free speech, sure, but the logical, vulgar conclusion to the college’s official promise to “actively confront and challenge religious bigotry.”

Consider the award in light of events yesterday, in which the House passed a measure to stop a new IRS rule that will suppress speech in a party-line vote. House Republicans joined with 60 groups on the political right and several on the political left to stop the suppression of speech and passed the measure without a single Democratic vote, unfortunately.

Unsurprisingly, none of today’s civility awardees except for the four Senate Republicans, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Deb Fischer, and Lisa Murkowski have expressed support for the House bill that would protect free speech from the predatory IRS. The bill will override the IRS rule announced in November that would completely redefine political communication and transform the 501(c)(4) classification. In celebrating their award, the 16 Senate Democrats and four Senate Republicans should tell Harry Reid to end this assault on free speech because, correct me if I am wrong, but free speech is most fundamental to civility and pretty much everything else our republic stands for, right?

At a time when government is growing and the authoritative power of the executive continues to expand and Americans are forced to cede more lawmaking power to the regulatory process rather than the legislative process, its no wonder the political climate is as divisive and uncivil as it is today. Allegheny’s partisan award is counterproductive to the cause of civility. The award itself values a set of authoritarian ideals, rather than ordered liberty. Authoritarian, de-facto speech codes implemented by the same administration on its campus, and suppression of free speech encouraged by the award, all do a disservice to the First Amendment.

With the exception of the few students Allegheny will bring along to press club, most involved with the civility award, from the recipients to the board, are a product of an era where civility wasn’t a cherished value, especially on college campuses. Feminist activists have thrived on college campuses since then and its obvious with this year’s award, they are now an inseparable part of the experience we call going to college.

Its not news that many men in public service have adopted a balls over brains strategy for governing. But could this have something to do with the increasingly authoritarian nature of college campuses and other private associations?