I am old enough to remember when America's colleges and universities seemed to be the most open-minded and intellectually rigorous institutions in our society. Today, something very much like the opposite is true: America's colleges and universities have become, and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and intellectually dishonest institutions in our society.
Colleges and universities today almost universally have speech codes, which prohibit speech deemed hurtful by others, particularly those who are deemed to be minorities (including women, who are a majority on most campuses these days).
They are enforced unequally, so that no one gets punished when students take copies of conservative alternative campus newspapers left for free distribution and dump them in the trash. But should a conservative student call some female students "water buffaloes," he is sentenced to take sensitivity training -- the campus version of communist re-education camps. The message comes through loud and clear. Some kinds of speech are protected, while others are punished.
Where did speech codes come from? There certainly weren't many when I was in college or law school. So far as I can tell, they originated after college and university administrators began using racial quotas and preferences to admit students -- starting with blacks, now including Hispanics and perhaps others -- who did not meet ordinary standards. They were instituted, it seems, to prevent those students from feeling insulted and to free administrators from criticism for preferential treatment -- treatment that arguably violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (although Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in the 2003 Supreme Court case on the subject, said they could continue another 25 years).
Racial quotas and preferences continue to be employed, as a recent article on UCLA makes clear, in spite of state laws forbidding them, and university administrators seem to derive much of their psychic income from their supposed generosity in employing them. This, even though evidence compiled by UCLA Professor Richard Sander suggests they produce worse educational outcomes for their intended beneficiaries and even though Justice Clarence Thomas makes a persuasive case in his book "My Grandfather's Son" that they cast a stigma of inferiority on them.
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