Free speech: UC Berkeley cancels Coulter event

Administrators at the University of California Berkeley are postponing a speech by right-wing commentator Ann Coulter for fear they could not protect students from violence. The conservatives and Coulter herself are resisting, saying the event will go forward without university sanction. (San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2017, by Nanette Asimov with contributions by Melody Gutierrez)

Coulter says she will go ahead with the speech scheduled for April 27. She said she played by the rules to no avail in agreeing to guidelines set by the university to minimize the chances for violence. Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a Berkeley professor, said it was a mistake to cancel the event, that it was important to hear and debate Coulter’s speech and that the university had adequate time to address safety issues. (The Washington Post, April 20, 2017, by William Wan)

Penn professor Jonathan Zimmerman, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 2017, is concerned that liberals are blocking conservatives from speaking on campuses across the country. A majority of freshman students in a 2015-2016 poll said that racist and sexist speech on campus should be banned. And students who wish to ban right-wing speakers claim that the speakers do them psychological harm. “It’s tempting to imagine that the mob at Claremont-McKenna [that prevented a speech by conservative writer Heather MacDonald] was fighting against racism,” wrote Zimmerman, “so it was justified in squelching speech. But at the end of the day, a mob is still a mob. It’s anathema to America’s great liberal tradition, which relies on free speech to right our wrongs.”

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