On campus, free speech at odds with tax funding
By Wendy McElroy
On March 22, David Huffman spoke out in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) student newspaper against being excluded from an on-campus public event.
He was excluded for being male.
The incident spotlights the shell game being run on state campuses across North America under the guise of free speech.
As a student, Huffman’s fees paid for the public forum from which he was barred. As taxpayers, his family underwrote his being treated like a black in the Ante-Bellum South.
Critical commentary on the incident has dwelled upon freedom of speech. But such commentaries miss the deeper point that ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘tax-funding’ are antagonistic concepts.
First, the facts of the Huffman incident:
On March 10, an event titled "Patriarchy Slam" was held by the radical Feminist Action League in a room reserved by a second and recognized student group. (The significance of this is that the free room was used in violation of UNH policy.) Posters across the campus advertised the meeting as a public event, with no indication of "Women Only."
Patriarchy Slam expressed radical anti-male feminism. For example, some FAL members wore scissors around their necks as they sang in praise of castration. One member, who identified herself as Mary Man-Hating-Is-Fun, told the gathering, "Ever since I learned to embrace my feminist nature, I found great joy in threatening men's lives…because I see them for what they are: misogynistic, sexist, oppressive and absurdly pathetic beings who only serve to pollute and contaminate this world…"
Huffman claims that the coordinator advised him "as a man I would be intimidating." Thus, when the open-microphone segment began, Huffman was instructed to leave even though he had caused no disruption. Other men remained but, according to Huffman, he was told they had "allegiance to the FAL."
Moreover, he explains FAL "confiscated my program….Evidently, they do not want the public knowing what was said that night….What I heard…was a hate rally."
Huffman is a journalist for the privately funded conservative student paper Common Sense; FAL claims he was excluded as a journalist, not as a man. But, then, why was Shannon O'Neil, a female reporter for The New Hampshire, allowed to stay?
Moreover, Anne Lawing, vice president of student affairs, comments, "This was a public event, and to turn anyone away is simply wrong. If you're a man you shouldn't be turned away…if you're a reporter, you shouldn't be turned away."
Lawing also raises the issue of freedom of speech. "We're talking about their rights [FAL’s rights] and the First Amendment."
Lawing is flatly wrong. FAL members have no First Amendment right to express themselves at taxpayer expense at a venue that has been improperly obtained. FAL has no First Amendment right to exclude well behaved ‘others’ from public property because of their views. (FAL member Nicole Whalen later stated, "women didn’t want to speak in front of him [Huffman]" because "we knew he was a conservative writer from 'Common Sense,' and we knew his intentions weren't genuine.")
When asked if a fratboy event that called for the mutilation of female genitalia would be tolerated, Lawing replied, "We have so much data that shows that fraternities have been violent with women in the past and the instances of women being violent to men happen so infrequently."
Again, Lawing is flatly wrong. Unbiased research shows that women commit violence with significant frequency. Moreover, so-called "hate speech" does not become actionable at UNH only if accompanied by a record of criminal assault.
Hypotheticals are not necessary.
Last fall, another UNH student, Timothy Garneau, was kicked out his dorm and left to sleep in a friend’s car for posting a flier in his dorm’s lobby, near the elevator. It read, "9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10-15 pounds [the notorious Freshman 15]. But there is something you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor take the stairs. Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes."
Garneau had no history of violence. Nevertheless, he required the intervention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, with its considerable legal clout, to regain housing.
Did UNH violate Garneau’s freedom of speech? I don’t know because I have no clear concept of what free speech means on tax-funded property.
Freedom of speech in the private sphere means that you have the right to express yourself at your own expense. But everyone is forced to pay for the UNH campus and, so, everyone should have an equal right to speak. That’s the theory.
But implementing this theory is an impossibility. A podium is a limited good that must be ‘assigned’ by authorities. At UNH and on most campuses, a handful of authorities have adopted policies that censure expression that is discriminatory, "hate-speech," or otherwise offensive. This often means nothing more than speech of which they do not approve.
In short, even if unlimited access to scarce podiums were possible, the authorities would not permit it. This is the contradiction inherent in trying to reconcile the terms ‘free speech’ and ‘tax funding’.
The solution is simple: privatize. Just as Huffman’s conservative paper is privately funded so, too, should scissor-wielding feminists be forced to finance their own pro-castration agenda.
That would be freedom of speech. That would constitute the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
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