Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Free Speech

Rich Leonardi of Ten Reasons links to a good editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer about a 'free speech' incident an Northern Kentucky University.

It seems that Sally Jacobsen, a tenured professor in the Literature & Languages department at NKU, led 9-12 of her students from a BritLit class to a grassy area near the university center where Right to Life (an approved student organization) had erected 400 crosses representing a cemetery for the unborn (a symbolic display which they had received university permission to erect). There Jacobsen encouraged them to tear all the crosses apart. She would not reveal whether she herself had participated in the destruction, but said she had encouraged the students to destroy the display, which she said was outrageous and offensive.

The editorial asks pertinently:
She said she was offended by the display. So what? Does she think she has the right to obliterate someone else's expression just because it offends her? Would she deface a painting she didn't care for? Smash a statue she didn't like? Burn books in the library if she disagreed with them?
Surprisingly, yet gratifyingly, enough, the university apparently agrees. The AP reports:
A Northern Kentucky University professor has been put on leave and will retire at the end of the semester after admitting she told students to destroy an anti-abortion display on campus.

Sally Jacobsen, who is a professor in the literature and language department, will not return to the school. University president James Votruba said what Jacobsen did was outside the scope of her employment.
I'm impressed that president Votruba sees the real free speech issue at stake. If you actually believe in freedom of speech, you believe in letting everyone speak. That means that destroying speech with which you disagree is the most antithetical thing you can possibly do to exercising 'free speech'. This is a point many college activists seem unclear on. At the community college where my father worked, there was an incident several years back where the Black Student Union seized an entire print run of the college newspaper and destroyed it, because they disagreed with an editorial it ran. The college president thanked them for expressing their views and promised to ferret our racism wherever she found it, but in fact, this was not an act of free speech. An act of free speech would be holding a rally against the editorial or publishing an alternative to the newspaper. Destroying the paper is an example of suppressing free speech in favor a set of imposed moral or cultural norms.

Now, maybe part of the problem with is that people have become so enamored of the idea of unlimited free speech that they can't admit that free speech is not actually an absolute ideal for them. This is, after all, the country where Larry Flynt not only won the right to publish unlimited smut in court, but even had a movie made about what a great American he was to have done so.

I am not myself a supporter of unlimited free speech. There are, I think, limits to what it is good for society for people to say and do. However, Prof. Jacobsen does not admit any such qualms about free speech, nor is she operating in an environment that acknowledges such limits.

This Cincinnati Post article has some more good info on the dust up, including some great quotes from Votruba.

And this site offers some photos of the destruction. Judge for yourself whether Prof. Jacobsen has any plausible deniability on whether or not she was involved:


Fidei Defensor said...

And then these are the sort of people who gleefully call our Pope a Nazi.

Darwin a similar (though admitablly milder) incident happend here on Campus during Lent and now it looks like I'm gonna have to blog about it.

Fred said...

It looks like the right to life is the foundation of all other rights, including the right to free speech.

Anonymous said...

Wow! And to think that my own brother went to NKU for a semester....