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Stanford’s Jim Crow Speech Tax

You will remember last week’s kerfuffle in which the student government at Stanford refused to commit funds for a one-day conference run by the Stanford Anscombe Society, an organization named for the prominent 20th century British philosopher. Why the stinginess? Because the Anscombe Society stands, in part, for defending traditional teachings about sexual morality and the family. Their conference will bring to campus Ryan T. Anderson, history’s greatest monster a Princeton-trained political philosopher best known for making a natural law case for privileging traditional marriage. That cannot happen on the campus of Stanford University, it seems; one student said that the presence — the mere presence! — of Anderson would make her feel “unsafe.” Thus does one of the world’s great universities appear as the Palo Alto School For Tots.

True unweaned hysteric and her undergraduate cohorts humiliate themselves with their childish, illiberal intellectual bigotry. They plainly don’t want to allow in their midst the presence of someone who doesn’t sign on to the Homintern line about gay rights. But as was pointed out, correctly, refusing to fund a conference isn’t the same thing as suppressing it.

The SAS found other sources of funding for its conference, and all was well. Until this week. From an SAS news release:

The Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) is requesting that Stanford University remove a burdensome $5,600 security fee it imposed on the conference organizers following the Graduate Student Council’s  revocation of funding for its April Communicating Values conference.

“This fee is a tax on free speech,” said Judy Romea, SAS co-president. “We love Stanford’s commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech, so we are disappointed to see them set the precedent of taxing speech that they don’t like.”

The fee is intended to pay for the presence of ten event security personnel, including four police officers, at the single-day conference. Approximately, 120 participants are expected, making the ratio of participants to security personnel 12 to 1.  The administration only insisted on the added security after a vocal group of LGBTQ activists announced their opposition to the event.

Indeed, the Grad Student Council’s decision to revoke the previously-granted $600 of funding was because of this same pressure from LGBTQ activists.

“The student government shut us out, simply because some students don’t share our values. The University responded not by standing up for our freedom of speech, but by forcing us to hire security so that hecklers can’t disrupt our event or intimidate our guests. We scrambled to cut costs and find new sources of funding–a nearly impossible task given the university’s many opaque, unwritten, and byzantine rules,” said Romea.

“Nevertheless, we’ve sought to meet all university requirements, meeting regularly with the appropriate administrators since January. We were accommodating and flexible in working with the university, offering compromises such as reducing the length of the conference from two days to one, canceling two speakers, and reducing our budget for food by 50 percent,” Romea added.

Students are now calling for the removal of this $5,600 tax on speech.

This is jaw-dropping. The only danger on campus is to the 120 participants in this conference, who will no doubt face heckling and possibly worse from gay activists and their allies, trying to disrupt the meeting. And the university — an actual American university! — is requiring them to pay nearly $6,000 to guarantee their right to lawfully assemble and practice free speech. On a campus. Of an American university.

What a disgrace to Stanford, reneging on its obligation to protect the exercise of free speech, and indeed attempting to suppress that speech by placing a tax on that speech. Why should these students, meeting peaceably to discuss philosophy and morality, have to pay not to be harassed, intimidated, and assaulted by gay-rights bigots? If it were the other way around, and a university required a gay-rights group to pay $5,600 to protect itself from anti-gay bigots, that would be completely outrageous. This is obviously an attempt to prevent these Stanford students from exercising their rights to speech and intellectual inquiry, in the same way the Jim Crow South used poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent blacks from voting.

This is happening at Stanford. Surely there are at least some professors and students on that campus who will stand up for free speech and freedom of assembly, even when it involves speech with which they disagree, and the peaceful assembly of a group of which they do not approve. Surely there are alumni of Stanford who will raise hell with the Stanford administration over this.

If Stanford and its student gay-rights thugs get away with this, it will be a shameful defeat for true liberalism, and a victory for gay-rights reactionaries, ideological radicals who insist that Error Has No Rights, and neither do the erroneous. If administrating a university means anything, it means standing up to the forces within the university community that seek to destroy the practices and the habits of mind that make it a civilized, and civilizing, place.

Come on, Stanford administrators. Find your spine, or lose your soul.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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