George Washington University is a private school, and as such it ought to be allowed to expel students for whatever reason it likes — swastikas, Crocs, being this girl. But the public universities are, if anything, even more ruthless policemen of speech and thought than are their private counterparts. And the modern public university — which is simply a beery extension of the modern public kindergarten — is a sort of terrarium version of the utopia that our progressive friends are always promising us. It is public, but you are there at the sufferance of those who operate these intellectual veal-pens. For the Left, the citizen exists at the sufferance of the state, not the other way around. Free speech on campus, if it is to be tolerated at all, is restricted to First Amendment “zones” — as though there were not a First Amendment zone stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Say the wrong thing on a college campus and you will be threatened with state-sanctioned violence.
But of course the streets patrolled by the thought cops (and the actual cops who enforce their edicts) are all one-way. FIRE — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — does important work documenting this sort of thing. When a Sam Houston State student activist named Morgan “Not That Morgan Freeman” Freeman set up a “free-speech wall” upon which students could write whatever they liked — including unkind observations about the school or about roving ex-boyfriends — some genius wrote “F**k Obama.” A professor insisted that the comment be removed, and when students refused, he vandalized the display. (Tenure is a hell of a drug.) Students complained to the police, who, seeing that the students’ rights had been violated and their property damaged, treated the students as though they were the criminals. More censorship was demanded. The students who were encouraging the exercise of free speech were threatened by gun-toting agents of the state not for expressing unapproved sentiments but simply for allowing for the expression of those unapproved sentiments. Offensive? Sure. Lots of things are offensive, and it seems to matter a great deal who is offended: “Piss Christ” gets you a federal subsidy; “F Obama” gets you a gun in your face.