Free Speech (Update)

by Robert Reich

Coulter is back. Today (Thursday), officials at the University of California, Berkeley, changed their mind about cancelling a planned speech by Ann Coulter. They say they found a safe venue.

Yesterday, in a letter to a campus Republican group that invited Coulter to speak, university officials said that they made the decision to cancel Coulter’s appearance after assessing the violence that flared on campus in February, when the same college Republican group invited right-wing provocateur and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak.

It was a grave mistake. I’m glad the university has reversed course.

How can students understand the vapidity of Coulter’s arguments without being allowed to hear her make them, and question her about them?

It’s one thing to cancel an address at the last moment because university and local police are not prepared to contain violence – as occurred, sadly, with Yiannopoulos. It’s another thing entirely to cancel an address before it is given, when police have adequate time to prepare for such eventualities.

Free speech is what universities are all about. If universities don’t do everything possible to foster and protect it, they aren’t universities. They’re playpens.

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