Ann Coulter wants people to know that she didn’t back out of her speech at UC Berkeley — everyone else backed out for her. Coulter took shots at the Berkeley chapters of the Young America’s Foundation and College Republicans for knuckling under to pressure as the school kept changing the terms of Coulter’s appearance this week. “All of the people who should be standing up for the First Amendment here,” Coulter told Sean Hannity last night, “ran away with their tail between their legs.”
Those aren’t the only allies Coulter alleges to have run away from fights, either. Coulter slams the Trump administration for its reversal on DACA and the wall, as well as the GOP for … well, everything:
“All of the people who should be standing up for the First Amendment here all ran away with their tails between their legs.”
Coulter announced earlier Wednesday that she would no longer appear at Berkeley after conservative groups sponsoring her remarks withdrew their support.
“There will be no speech,” she told Reuters. “I looked over my should and my allies had joined the other team.”
Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans reportedly pulled their support for Coulter’s Thursday speech over security concerns.
Did YAF and College Republicans really “run away,” though? Two days earlier, both filed suit against the university for its attempts to make it as difficult as possible for Coulter to speak, which will use a significant amount of resources for the fight. Be sure to read Allahpundit’s analysis of the complaint, which seems to have significant legs whether or not this event took place — and perhaps will be on stronger ground now that it won’t. This may wind up being a tactical retreat for a broader war rather than a desertion on the field of battle — but it may not look that way to Coulter, perhaps understandably so.
The New York Times offered Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks an opportunity to respond, and he claims that Coulter et al are manipulating Berkeley for their own political ends:
The University of California, Berkeley, and the community around it have been symbols of free speech for more than 50 years. We still celebrate the legacy of Mario Savio and others who fought in the 1960s to ensure that the First Amendment be honored on campus.
But today Berkeley is facing extraordinary challenges to living up to this legacy. The campus has become a magnet for groups who seek to use the site of the birth of the Free Speech Movement as a staging ground for violence and disruption.
The now-canceled campus speech by the conservative author Ann Coulter is a dramatic case in point. The Berkeley College Republicans invited Ms. Coulter without consulting with the university about the date of the event. This meant we at the school were unable to identify a place and time that could satisfy the extensive but necessary security requirements.
Yeah, Berkeley has never been the site of political protest and controversial speakers, amirite? Puh-leeeze. According to the lawsuit, BCR and YAF leaders met with Berkeley administration and law-enforcement officials on March 1st, almost two full months before the event date, to secure facilities and make security arrangements. Rather than cooperate with their own students on bringing in an outside speaker — which happens all the time on college campuses, by the way — the university threw a series of “unwritten” regulations at them about “high profile” speakers, a definition as arbitrary as it sounds. The two options offered by Dirks and the university were a date when classes weren’t in session or another date months out, hardly a good-faith effort to accommodate their free speech.
Put bluntly, Berkeley isn’t a victim of manipulation — it’s a perpetrator of manipulation, and they’re hardly alone. American colleges and universities have abandoned free speech and open debate for closed minds, “safe spaces,” and top-down imposition of speech control. As I write in my column for The Fiscal Times, Academia has adopted “offensensitivity” as its highest moral priority, and left education languishing far behind:
Almost thirty-five years ago, comic strip artist Berkeley Breathed coined the term “offensensitivity” in his seminal series Bloom County. A small crowd around a bus stop begin pointing out everything that personally offended their sensibilities, including one character stating, “This comic offends my offensiveness!” in a fourth-wall break. After declaring in unison, “My gosh, life is offensive!” they run for the hills, as Opus the Penguin explains it with the coined term. …
That attitude has damaged education itself on American campuses, Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain warned students in her final lecture. “You don’t belong on a college campus if you’re afraid of ideas,” the retiring educator pointed out in her speech, “Political Correctness and the Decline of American Universities.”
All of this agitation for “safe spaces” leaves students locked into their own pre-existing assumptions, rather than open to education. This extended adolescence results in a profound unreadiness for life outside the academic bubble where safe spaces don’t exist, and adults must deal with disagreement and debate.
That is the real tragedy of the “offensensitivity” epidemic on college campuses. Education takes a back seat to enforcement of an orthodoxy, usually abetted if not fully engaged by the schools themselves. Rather than open themselves to a broader range of views, arguments, data, and experiences, the demands of activists to shut down all views but their own becomes the opposite of an educational experience. It turns campuses into a form of activist monasteries, expelling heretics and punishing apostates that stray too far from the dogma of the progressive establishment.
With student debt spiraling out of control and universities failing their primary mission, perhaps it’s time to ask whether we should keep funding these cloisters at all. Let private colleges educate students instead and open up the market to competition, rather than having the states and federal government fund and run institutions that no longer defend the values of the country from which they benefit. We might well get much more benefit by turning these campuses into trade schools that provide young adults with valuable skills, rather than keeping them trapped in this extended adolescence.