One college is now handing out punishment to students for disrupting free speech on campus, and while the speaker impacted says she is glad there are some consequences for those protesters, she still believes colleges may be hopelessly immersed in the movement of racial victimhood.
On April 6, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald was prevented from giving her scheduled address at Claremont McKenna College. Protesters denounced Mac Donald over her best-selling book, “The War on Cops,” and physically prevented students from attending the lecture. They also led chants of “F— the police.”
Unlike other disruptions at schools like the University of California-Berkeley and Middlebury College, Claremont McKenna is now handing out punishments. In a statement, the school condemned the blockade.
“The blockade breached institutional values of freedom of expression and assembly. Furthermore, this action violated policies of both the College and The Claremont Colleges that prohibit material disruption of college programs and created unsafe conditions in disregard of state law,” read part of the statement.
While acknowledging 170 students were involved in the demonstration, just seven were disciplined: three were suspended for a year, two others for one semester and two more were put on conduct probation.
Mac Donald sees the results as a mixed bag. On one hand, she’s grateful that Claremont McKenna was willing to take action.
“For once, I’m gratified that there’s some discipline with teeth, unlike in Middlebury. True academic suspensions are serious punishment. That’s going to show up on a student’s record,” said Mac Donald.
But while seven students are paying the price, she’s a bit puzzled as to why there weren’t more discipline cases stemming from the event.
“It’s a very small number of people who have been punished. Five receiving suspensions is much less than (the number) people complicit in the blockade. There’s no explanation by Claremont as to how they reached that number and whether it’s because they didn’t have evidence for other people or not,” said Mac Donald.
But while giving the school leaders some credit, Mac Donald says the larger response to the chaos surrounding her visit shows the administrators still don’t get it.
“Ironically, the Claremont-McKenna statement said that it was calling on its faculty to try and help us understand how to mitigate the forces that divide our society. What divides our society is precisely this preposterous idea that to be a minority student at an American college today is to be the victim of oppression,” said Mac Donald.
Mac Donald says that approach is only hurting the very students it intends to help.
“CMC and every other college has vast bureaucracies dedicated to that proposition. Students that are brainwashed with that idea in college are going to go on into American society unable to see the opportunities that are available to them, with a big chip on their shoulders. We’re going to see racial tensions and possibly even racial violence continue,” she said.
“This is ludicrous,” said Mac Donald. “There is no more privileged position in society today than to be a student at an American campus.”
Far from seeing Claremont-McKenna’s actions as a turning point in tolerance for differing opinions on campuses, Mac Donald believes things are worse than ever because the people who should be standing up for free speech and free expression are on the other side of the debate.
“We’re fast approaching a critical mass, where the majority of faculty are themselves perpetrating this idea that speech from a student from a favored victim category finds disagreeable is itself a form of violence,” said Mac Donald.
She says faculty at the University of California-Berkeley were even defending the rioting that forced the cancellation a Milo Yiannopoulos event on campus.
“There were two faculty at Berkeley, in an email chain, that were dismissing the Antifa black block fascists as just doing what was necessary and in a very nice, surgical manner of trashing buildings and creating fires,” said Mac Donald.
She also says no one should expect college administrators to suddenly get a surge of courage and stand up for academic and constitutional freedom in the face of hostile students.
“Ever since the ’60s, they caved in then in a very, very bad way and they’ve absolutely been cowards since then,” she said.
Mac Donald believes a major alumni revolt could change the minds of administrators on some campuses. But even if the money dries up, she fears some schools are too far down the social justice pathway to turn back now.
“It’s a real tension because by now the universities have really been taken over by this left-wing zealotry. I’m not even confident that a drop in alumni donations would lead them to say, ‘OK, no more of this nonsense,'” said Mac Donald.
She says the only true recourse is for parents with children at all levels of education to demand better.
“You’ve got to fight back against it and give your children alternative sources of knowledge,” said Mac Donald.