It’s a Beautiful Thing, the Destruction of Words.

First Amendment BAMF The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”) defends individual rights at American Colleges and Universities from the barrage of attacks on free speech and free expression. Every month, FIRE features an institution of higher learning that should be ashamed of itself for enacting a speech code that is, at best, terrible. This month’s honoree is the University of North Dakota (“UND”) for its delightfully well-written policy that defines harassment as:

[U]nacceptable behavior, which can range from violence and bullying to more subtle behavior such as ignoring an individual at work or study. It subjects an individual or a group to unwelcome attention, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, offense or loss of privacy. It is unwanted by the recipient and continues after an objection is made.


Universities have long been thought to be the last gleaming hope of free thought and expression. It is also generally accepted that college campuses are bastions of left leaning philosophies that champion speech and expression. Imagine the shock and chagrin, then, when one discovers that UND isn’t the only member of the “liberal” American higher education system that quite possibly poses more of a threat to First Amendment rights than the government. But before you conservatives and libertarians start squealing and pointing the shame finger at the nearest hippie, sit down, shut up, and read “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate”, by First Amendment super BAMF and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff.

In his book, Lukianoff gives a very real and very scary glimpse into contemporary American academia. No longer a shining beacon of differing viewpoints and the relentless pursuit of intellectual honesty, the typical American university is a quagmire of self-serving administrative officials, apathetic faculty, and a woefully ignorant student body. Lukianoff deftly sheds light on the evolution of censorship policies that have been unilaterally enacted by weak-minded bureaucrats who want to stamp out criticism and dissent. Policies that are enforced without a glimmer of due process for the offender and without so much as a peep from the student body. Policies that may be in response to legislation at both the state and Federal level.

As someone once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next”. If so, we’re in for a world of hurt. Unlearning Liberty is a must-read for every First Amendment defender out there. It will scare you, piss you off, and maybe even make you cry, but hopefully it will also inspire you to wake up, stand up, and speak up.

8 Responses to It’s a Beautiful Thing, the Destruction of Words.

  1. SharealittleSunshine says:

    FIRE is the coolest 501c3 out there.

  2. Amy Alkon says:

    The book is absolutely great. Great post, Marco!

  3. lizardsf says:

    So, wait. Does that mean that when I was in college, studying, and female students walked by me and DIDN’T spontaneously sit down, start chatting me up, and then drag me back to their rooms for serious snugglebunnies, that I was being “harassed”? Being ignored by women was a behavior “unwanted by the recipient” (me). Wow. I’m suddenly aware of how I’ve been victimized all my life, because people I might have wanted to notice me, didn’t. Whom do I sue?

  4. LSutter says:

    It sure is! (Required reading, that is.)

  5. ” such as ignoring an individual at work or study.”

    So…. we can’t ignore obnoxious people and must engage them??

  6. Observerwwtdd says:

    So….if someone DOESN’T offend me by ignoring my boorish behavior…..I’ve been bullied?

  7. I’m lost. In what conceivable alternative hellish reality does “ignoring an individual at work or study” constitute harassment?

    How can not doing anything, when not doing anything would be the normal, accepted behaviour, become offensive? And to whom? A third party?

    On another topic… this post’s concern with the possible future of this generation of students (and reading through the FIRE website) strongly recalls to mind “Pump Six”, a futuristic short story by Paolo Bacigalupi. I’d recommend anyone interested in where the education system is heading to check his story out. I found the description of the university campus really disturbing, probably because it didn’t need much of a stretch of the imagination to believe at all.

  8. Irrational Exuberance says:

    You may have just picked Christmas Gifts for a few of my friends.
    I’ve been a fan of, and made donations to, Fire. They are fighting the good fight and if we are lucky and don’t just sit on our collective asses they might just keep what we have.

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