A cycle of conservative speakers triggering left-wing activists may vindicate the First Amendment, but it won’t help the university escape its current incoherence and despondency. A classical liberalism that only wants to defend its own right to argue — because that’s what John Stuart Mill would want or something — will end up talking only to itself. If you want a healthy culture of debate, it’s not enough to complain that Marxists and postmodernists are out to silence you; you need your own idea of what education and human life itself are for.

Yes, this makes the problem sound insanely big; the advantage of free speech as common ground is that you don’t have to solve the “what’s wrong with academia” problem or the equally daunting “what’s wrong with big-time sports and race relations.”

But sometimes the problems are bad enough that the procedural approach isn’t a solution. And with due respect to the First Amendment, I think this is one of those times.