BY EVA VON DASSOW
Guest blogger Eva von Dassow is Associate Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and AAUP Chapter Chair at the University of Minnesota.
Since when is demanding that public funds be expended to indulge your wishes a conservative idea?
The student group calling itself the Berkeley Patriot and the media company of Milo Yiannopoulos successfully compelled UC Berkeley to spend close to a million dollars to host and provide security for a series of events billed as “Free Speech Week,” which failed to happen in the end. And they promise to do it again, while threatening to sue should any of their wishes be thwarted.
Where do Milo, Inc., the Berkeley Patriot, and their fellow travelers think that money comes from?
It comes from the operating budget of UC Berkeley and the UC system, which means it comes from California taxpayers. So does any money spent by city police to support the university in providing security. That money can’t then be used for other needs – academics, for example – so in effect it is taken from the university’s students, and from Berkeley residents.
And money isn’t the only cost. Employee time and labor are diverted to meeting the demands of one student group, their invitees, and their lawyers. Students who are on campus to attend classes have to make way for – or get out of the way of – the invading crowds as well as the preparations to accommodate them. Faculty are asked to reschedule academic events that were planned for the dates Milo wants to show up.
That’s very costly speech indeed. And for their trouble the university administration gets accused of “authoritarian censorship” by the free-speech poser who has held the campus hostage to his whims.
In this instance it is UC Berkeley that has been the parasite’s host, but every university, public or private, is its target. The infection is abetted by elected and unelected office-holders, most recently the U.S. attorney general, who take turns accusing educational institutions of curtailing people’s freedom of speech. How – by failing to fully fund whatever Milo or Ann Coulter or Richard Spencer demands?
And what sort of speech do they want the university and the public to pay for? Insults, to judge by the reported statements of speakers such as these. Meanwhile, laughing at the same U.S. attorney general is prosecuted, using taxpayer money, as a crime.
One would gather from recent episodes like those at UC Berkeley that the values of self-declared conservatives include not reasoned debate, discipline, or fiscal restraint but incivility, self-indulgence, and draining public resources for their private gain. The nation and its educational institutions can ill afford to appease conservatives like this.
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