Among my recent reading, a Washington Post "local opinion" piece caught my eye: "Scalia Law School Is A Win For Free Thought."
For the reader "outside the [DC] beltway," this requires a backstory: Recently, very shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a privately funded Virginia university, the George Mason University, renamed its law school after Scalia. The move drew attention regionally at the time, partly for purely (and largely irrelevant) political reasons, and also because wags pointed out the move turned this branch of the university into the "ASSoL." Trivial objections, right? For my money, GMU can rename its law school anything it wants.
So it was surprising to see this article calling that same routine decision a "win for free thought." The writer, Thomas Wheatley, described only as a law student at George Mason, fails to make that case; further, to my mind his effort casts doubt on the quality of law graduates from the ASSoL.
Dare we suppose, in today's politically charged climate, that a law student would learn to write objective, factual prose? If we dare, we will be disappointed. Check out this small sample of a lengthier paragraph of purple prose: ... a culture of fear and intimidation ... propagated by a cartel of activist-wannabes posing as intellectuals and their legion of navel-gazing student cupcakes." Wow. How purple is the prose?
Now, Wheatley does attempt to make a valid point: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education" (the FIRE?) finds that 95% of American universities have at least one policy that infringes free speech. That sounds pretty serious and maybe it is. Will the law student stay on point and provide us examples of some of these policies that infringe? Nope.
Instead the argument rapidly veers onto a tangent, citing several cases around the country in which individuals or groups have attacked/ridiculed/disrupted other individuals' right of free speech. These cases speak to the existence of that "intimidation," which I have no doubt is serious, real, and regrettable. But they do not at all speak to how university policies might, or might not, infringe on free speech, or how GMU is different. Rather, they make something of an opposite case, since Mr. Wheatley appears not to understand that forms of demonstration against free speech are themselves free speech. Indeed, through history, free speakers have, however unfortunately, had to fight for their right of expression. (Just ask Martin Luther.)