Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo "mental health evaluation" before being allowed to return to school.
Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler's right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.
Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler's e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site, contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.
Free speech has a very small constituency on the modern campus, particularly if the speaker under attack is conservative. Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard, is certainly no conservative, but he had run afoul of the campus left on many issues, not just the heavily publicized one of women in science (suggesting more campus respect for patriotism and the return of ROTC to Harvard, warning the "coastal elites" that they have drifted too far from the American mainstream). So when feminists managed to cancel Summers as a speaker before the University of California board of regents, there was scarcely a peep of protest. The American Association of University Professors spoke out, and so did the Harvard Crimson. But in a couple of hours of searching the internet, I found only one professor nationally who complained about the treatment of Summers.
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