Are today's colleges and universities still bastions of free speech or just degree mills for spoiled kids?

One speaker brought on to replace another speaker who had been forced out surprised the students by castigating those responsible in no uncertain terms.

The stunning move by a commencement speaker at Haverford College on Sunday to use the celebratory occasion to lambaste students who had protested against another speaker drew a standing ovation but also sharp criticism.

William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton, called the protestors’ approach both “immature” and “arrogant” and the subsequent withdrawal as a speaker of Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California Berkeley, a “defeat” for the Quaker college and its ideals.

Bowen’s remarks to an audience of about 2,800, plus nearly 300 graduates, added a new twist to commencement speaker controversies playing out increasingly on college campuses. Bowen — one of three speakers who received an honorary degree — faced no opposition, but chose to address the issue, calling it “sad” and “troubling.”

The controversy arose over Birgeneau’s leadership during a 2011 incident in which UC Berkeley police used force on students protesting college costs. A group of more than 40 students and three Haverford professors — all Berkeley alums — objected to Birgeneau’s appearance, noting that many of them had participated in Occupy protests as well and wanted to stand in solidarity with Berkeley students. (source)

I went to college in the 60's, an era rife with student protests and the clash of political ideas. But we invited and listened to one speaker after another. Today's students often appear to lack enough confidence in their own ideas to let their minds be exposed to alternative ideas. Most students were eager to hear opposing ideas. Sure there were the few who tried to shout down a speaker, but most sat and waited for a chance to talk to those they oppose either in a question and answer session or in a reception or by debating about the speaker in the student newspaper.

Why to do so many of today's students just want silence alternative ideas?

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Ok, yeah it's just business as usual, as Mr. accountant pleases his boss just trying to milk the last dime of low wage workers. As that person who could have settled the accident with a handshake, instead calls Lawyers Dewey Screwem and Howe, that engineer who is content that defective steering column in every car they build because they saved 0.32 cents per unit, or that manager who decides his performance review is more important than passenger safety. It's the manager who without a flinch outsources thousands of jobs, shuts down a plant or the school administrator who worries about profit way more than edumacation.

Let us just call it capitalism and the American way. I agree it may not be "maliciously willful", but everyone knows they are selling out in the long term and they just don't care. As an engineer, I can tell you whenever I mention "long term goals" in my capacity, I get to be very unpopular with management. Still, I always bring it up and at least the deciders get to feel uncomfortable for a while.

The outcome, not the intent, is the legacy.

The university chancellor approved violence against peaceful protesters?  Secretary Rice led the charge in a war of aggression in Iraq, when they didn't even attack us?  The IMF guy represents the 1% big money elite, the epitome of have vs have-not?

I don't think you can say the students want to silence the alternative ideas.  I think those speakers all represent the establishment.  The students in those cases ARE the alternative point of view.

Did he specifically approve violence, or did he just tell the police (campus police?) to remove the protesters? And did the "peaceful" protesters incite violence by not removing themselves.

Being peaceful does not in and of itself guarantee peaceful police.

Here is your lesson

Leadership 101:

A leader is ALWAYS responsible for what happens or does not happens under his watch even if he is directly or indirectly connection to the scenario. 


Fact is he ordered it and the end blame lies with him.

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

Sounds like a pretty absolute statement to me.

Adam, thanks for the reminder.

I was new in the Navy when I asked an old salt why captains often go down with their ships. He explained Leadership 101. 

Since then I took Leadership 102:

Blame lies with the leaders on whose watches things happen until they persuade folks that the blame lies elsewhere.

I'm now in Leadership 103, learning how to persuade folks that nothing happened.

There are different kinds of responsibility. There is personal hands-on responsibility and organizational responsibility. Personal responsibility requires intent and foresight. Organizational responsibility is technical and in terms of culpability, very dilute.

Imagine an IRS agent is illegally doing favors for family and friends. What is his responsibility vs. Pres. Obama's?

Unless the guy told the cops to go out and crack heads, his responsibility is limited. Indeed, he may be well within his rights even if he did.

And, speaking of responsibility, the protestors had hijacked an area that other organizations may have gone to the trouble to reserve. There's no kind of protest I'm aware of that absolutely requires that the protestors take over an area and prevent other people from using it legally.

Merely being "peaceful" doesn't give one license to break law or rules.

It seems like Berkeley, of all places, would be adept at handling peaceful protesters in a sensitive manner.  So, did the chancellor suspend the rules of engagement?  Or did he just overlook it when the police didn't follow them? 

I’ve been reacting to comments, and haven’t really thrown in my own opinion regarding the OP, so…

Today's students often appear to lack enough confidence in their own ideas to let their minds be exposed to alternative ideas… Why to do so many of today's students just want silence alternative ideas?

I’ve been reading about this type of thing, but don’t think it is so much a generational issue as it is an issue of ideology.  The Post Modernist idea that the “personal is political” has been warped into the idea that an individual’s feelings should be of importance to others, and a part of political dialogue.  The result has been that ideological echo chambers are developing, and those who don’t buy in cannot simply be considered to be in disagreement.  Their disagreement is considered a personal attack on the feelings and person of who they disagree with.

The result has been the reliance on emotional argument over data, in-group vs. out-group hostility, the whole ‘trigger warning’ fiasco, labeling people as misogynists or homophobes of those who disagree, attempts to police other’s language, and varying degrees of shaming, shunning, and witch hunting.  These are the hallmark tactics of the Social Justice Warrior movement, who are pretty much the political left equivalent of creationists (a good example of them is the Atheism+ circus from a year or so ago).

I see the bulk of every demographic as being pretty decent, but each also has its fringe screw heads.  I’d put a good share of this problem at the door of these particular screw heads, and their politically right mirror images.

The only thing that makes it a generational issue is the sheer size of the boomer generation. As they age and progress, their normal developments and actions pack a bigger punch on society. Many people from every generation go through a phase of idealism in their teens and twenties. The boomers hit that age range in the 60s and early 70s so we had the hippie movement and all their peace and love. Many people from all generations reach a point in life where they realize idealism won't pay the bills, typically in their thirties or so. The boomers reached that age in the 80s. That, along with Reaganomics, created the corporate, cut-your-throat-for-a-buck atmosphere of American business. As people age, they typically become more conservative. Clearly there has been a conservative shift in recent years. When the boomers retire, again a normal stage of development, they will bankrupt Medicare and leave nothing for the rest of us. Boomers don't really do anything different from other generations; there's just so freaking many of them.

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