Berkeley student: Free speech is slipping away on campus

The Washington Examiner published an opinion piece Sunday by a current Berkeley student named Max Keating. Keating describes some of his experiences on campus that lead him to believe free speech is slipping away at the school that was the focus of the free speech movement 50 years ago:

The statistics on suppression of free speech on college campuses nationwide are daunting. According to a November article in the National Review, the rate of “shout-downs” or events where protesters effectively blocked speakers from delivering their message on college campuses has quadrupled in number since last spring.

My own experience at Berkeley is not only fraught with examples of free speech suppression but utterly inconsistent with what I thought college in general, and Berkeley in particular, should be all about…

Unfortunately, rather than experiencing the free exchange of speech and ideas, I have encountered violence and intolerance. I recently attended a campus lecture by conservative Ben Shapiro. After the event, I ended up amidst a crowd of protesters that had made their way to campus. Standing near a woman who held a pro-Shapiro poster, I watched as another woman approached her, tore the poster from her hands, and hurled her to the ground. The woman’s head hit the pavement and riot police quickly arrived and summoned an ambulance.

This was not an isolated incident. I have seen students shut down others for merely expressing their opinions. I’ve had discussions with fellow students who support banning controversial speakers from campus. I’ve witnessed Berkeley College Republicans being spat on while trying to recruit new members.

Keating praises Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, both of whom have argued on behalf of free expression as foundational to the University experience. However, Keating suggests it’s the students who are the problem on campus. He concludes, “It is time to stop being so sensitive; if someone’s ideas offend you, call them out and debate them publicly, but don’t prohibit them from being heard.”

The Washington Examiner and the piece itself don’t give a lot of background on Keating, but a Berkeley student with the same name was quoted this September in a report about the school’s College Republican group:

Another freshman, Max Keating from Boston, said he never expected to end up in California but was impressed with Cal when he visited it last year. Formerly active in his high school Young Republicans chapter, Keating said he was interested in BCR but a little deterred by the ideological bent.

“Unlike some of these other people, I’m not too hot on President Trump,” he said. “I think it’s important that [the club leaders] try to legitimize themselves, and distance themselves from the alt-right.”

We keep hearing from students on these campuses warning us that the far-left kids are not alright, but there is a large contingent of people on the left, including some college presidents, staff, and faculty, who are determined to ignore this problem and dismiss it as a conservative distraction. Needless to say, that doesn’t make it so. Far left students will continue to act this way until there are some consequences for doing so.