Trigger warning: “Build a wall.”
Those three words have ignited a firestorm at Cornell University. An apology has been demanded, several issued, and demanded yet again. Sanctions have been sought. The administration even issued a condemnation, claiming the words were part of “a continued pattern of the marginalization of many members of the Cornell community.” Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi put it this way: “I strongly condemn behavior that is antithetical to our proud history of inclusion.”
Ironically, Lombardi either didn’t know or bother to find out—or is deliberately misleading the public—that the student in question is a liberal Latino whose only goal in muttering those forbidden words was to mock President Trump. That’s right: A liberal, Latino undergraduate member of Cornell’s Zeta Psi chapter used the words “build a wall” within earshot of his neighbors, the campus’ Latino Living Center (LLC), residents of which filed complaints about the remarks.
Now, there’s nothing extraordinary about a liberal college student at an overpriced Northeastern university mocking a Republican president. What is extraordinary is the campus’ response.
Cornell’s La Asociacon Latina (LAL) published a statement condemning the words, claiming many Hispanic students are already under “a lot of duress” because of President Trump’s plan to cancel the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and enforce our immigration laws. LAL also demanded all current and new fraternity members to undergo mandatory diversity training—that is, a liberal brainwashing re-education camp. Even the Greek Tri-Council vowed to “reject hateful actions,” while the fraternity’s headquarters appears to have tucked tail and apologized instead of correcting blatant lies and misinformation.
Meanwhile, the administration is considering disciplinary action for the allegedly egregious “hate speech.”
Has Cornell ever taken a forceful stand against liberal groupthink on campus? Or the divisive rhetoric in the university’s new anti-Trump course? Of course not. If anything, the administration has encouraged the proliferation of blind obedience to the same liberal dogma it espouses.
Lost in the shuffle are the student’s own liberal inclinations, and that he was a Latino mocking President Trump’s immigration policies. This is a fact LLC and others on campus appear to be concealing to target not just this fraternity, but any Orwellian “crimethink” contrary to the administration’s “goodthink.” Fraternities are an easy target, of course, and have come under leftist attack across the country for “micro-aggressions” as ridiculous as hosting construction-themed house parties and “Cinco de Drinko” events.
If LLC and the administration are indeed complicit in a hoax to target conservative speech—by intentionally obscuring the identity and purpose of the speech they’re squashing—it may be the most egregious example of anti-speech activism to date. Advancing this identity politics grievance agenda would not only be a blatant fraud, but it would threaten any Cornell student who didn’t toe the line on permissible speech. Here, the fraud is all the more blatant because LLC—and, presumably, the administration—knows the student in question is Latino, liberal, and anti-Trump.
The labeling of pure speech as “hateful actions” is yet another example of the Left moving the goalposts and targeting even speech they in fact support—the mocking of the president’s policies—to stifle any intellectual discourse. Agree or disagree with any particular message, academic institutions have a responsibility to foster meaningful debate. That’s the whole point of higher learning. Failing to protect speech is morally outrageous.
Unfortunately, we will continue to see university officials tolerate and even reward petty political agendas to appease snowflakes. And it’s disappointing to see the fraternity, which exists as an expression of our right to free association, cave when it comes to free speech—bowing down to a liberal agenda and obscuring the truth from the public for the sake of appeasement.
This isn’t liberal vs. conservative anymore. If we as Americans don’t stand up against this angry mob attacking our freedom of speech, the First Amendment will wither away on campus, and eventually nationwide. Is there a greater disservice to America’s future than that?
Dan Backer, an alumnus of Zeta Psi, is founding attorney of political.law, a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria, Virginia. He has served as counsel to more than 100 campaigns, candidates, PACs, and political organizations.