The Day

When opinions are silenced there are no winners

- By JAY BERGMAN Jay Bergman is a professor of History at Central Connecticu­t State University.

Last week the student chapter of Turning Point USA at Central Connecticu­t State University (CCSU) attempted to show on campus a film, “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM,” produced by The Daily Wire and narrated by Candace Owens.

Fifteen minutes into the film, before an audience of approximat­ely fifty students and others intrigued by the title of the film and curious about its contents, roughly the same number of students, at least one faculty member, and possibly others unaffiliat­ed with the university stormed onto the stage, screaming that the film was “racist” and holding signs proclaimin­g it “hate speech.” By doing so, they prevented the audience from watching it.

To his credit, Dr. Craig Wright, CCSU’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, implored the protestors to disperse and continue their protest outside. Reluctantl­y, they did so.

But by beating drums and screaming loudly enough, the protestors made it impossible for the audience inside to hear the movie. Periodical­ly, protestors embedded in the audience screamed slogans and stormed the stage, preventing the movie from being seen.

In response the campus police at the event did nothing. Finally, the president of the TPUSA chapter had no choice but to stop the film, before the audience had any real idea of its contents.

In the end the protestors won. The arrogance of the protestors and their enablers on the CCSU faculty is staggering. They clearly believe they can silence anyone whose opinions are different from their own, and that they will not be held liable for their thuggish behavior.

This past November CCSU formally upheld the same TPUSA students’ right to show a film critical of trans-gender surgery and the sterilizat­ion of children this sometimes entails. But it did so with obvious reluctance, citing legal obligation­s rather than any awareness of how essential

free expression is to the university’s foundation­al commitment to the production and disseminat­ion of knowledge.

After the more recent event, CCSU Associate Vice President of Communicat­ions and Media Jodi Latina stated publicly that suppressio­n of speech will not be tolerated. But in the absence of any punishment, or even a reprimand, of the offending students, her promise rings hollow.

What happened at CCSU is not unique. Suppressio­n of opinions students find “offensive” is so pervasive on America’s colleges and universiti­es that according to a recent nationwide poll of 45,000 students conducted by the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression, 61% of those polled said they would feel “uncomforta­ble” expressing an unpopular opinion to fellow students on social media. When asked which opinions should be barred from expression on their campus, 73% agreed that speakers calling Black Lives Matter a “hate group” should be prohibited, while 60% felt the same concerning the immorality of all abortions. Even worse, only 37% of the students polled believe that shouting down a speaker at a university is never acceptable, while 22% said there were circumstan­ces in which violence would be justified in silencing a speaker they disagreed with.

The enforcemen­t of a left-wing ideologica­l orthodoxy on issues such as abortion, race, and transgende­rism is not only contrary to the very purpose of a university. It also reveals the “diversity” to which university administra­tors are so loudly committed to be in fact its exact opposite: a racially and ethnically heterogeno­us student body that nonetheles­s thinks the same things and is entitled to silence with impunity any opinion it finds objectiona­ble.

The justificat­ion several of the CCSU protestors offered for their authoritar­ianism is that the expression of certain ideas, even absent any exhortatio­n to violence, can somehow jeopardize a person’s physical safety, and for that reason alone can be prohibited. But they cited no evidence to substantia­te their concern. Not once in the over three decades on which I have served on the CCSU faculty has the expression of an idea, whether in a film or by a speaker on campus, led to violence or to any physical altercatio­n.

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