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Liberal Cornell Students Decry “Campus Hostility Towards Free Speech and Open Dialogue”

Liberal Cornell Students Decry “Campus Hostility Towards Free Speech and Open Dialogue”

Confirms what I have been pointing out for years: “many Cornellians are scared to challenge the progressive status quo and speak in opposition to those pushing ideological conformity”

Cornell University has a free expression problem. But you knew that, because you read Legal Insurrection.

I have documented various attempts, almost exclusively from the left, to shut down expression, including in these posts, among others:

I emphasize “free expression” rather than “free speech” because it’s not strictly a First Amendment problem on this private campus. It’s a culture problem in which diversity is valued except when it comes to diversity of viewpoint.

The result is a campus culture in which students, faculty, and staff are afraid to speak out. It’s not just me making that observation, a survey released in September 2020 confirmed that Cornell ranks low in campus free speech survey, abysmal on student free expression:

For years I have been documenting the increasingly oppressive atmosphere for free speech at Cornell University, including shout-downs and disruptions of conservative and/or pro-Israel speakers and events. That atmosphere now is in overdrive with a push from the top-down of the admninistration to turn the campus into an exercise is activism, Cornell University takes a major step towards compulsory racial activism for faculty, students, and staff….

My observations that students are scared into silence, and feel the repression, is confirmed by a survey just released which ranks Cornell 40th out of 55 campuses surveyed….

Cornell was ranked 40th out of the 55 schools surveyed. Here is the Cornell write up:


  • 29% of students say it is never acceptable to shoutdown a speaker on campus.
  • 48% of students are confident that the administration will defend the speaker’s rights in a free speech controversy.
  • 81% of students say it is never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.
  • Students are most uncomfortable expressing an unpopular opinion on a social media account tied to one’s name.
  • Affirmative action is the topic most frequently identified by students as difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus.

Here is the breakdown. Note the very low score for self-expression I have highlighted. Self-expression is defined in the survey as:

“Self-Expression measures the proportion of students who do not report feeling unable to share their perspective at their college. This score is out of 100 points.”

Cornell’s self-expression score is 35.3, meaning that 64.7 percent of students do not feel free to share their perspective.

This is not a liberal versus conservative problem. It’s a problem where a relatively small group of campus activists are able to instill fear even in liberals.

An Op-Ed today in the Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper eloquently describes the problem. The Op-Ed is by students who self-identify as members of the Liberal Caucus of the Cornell Political Union. The CPU is a non-partisan student group that brings speakers to campus to debate students over controversial issues. One of those speakers in the past was Tea Party founder Michael Johns, Sr., who prepared to debate students over his pro-Trump views in 2017. But as we covered, the event almost was cancelled due to student activist threats of disruption.

The self-identified liberal students wrote, in part, Cornell Should Adopt the Chicago Principles:

A little over seven years ago, the University of Chicago issued a report defending free speech on campus. Since then, over eighty institutions or faculty bodies have adopted the report and committed themselves to promote free expression. We write this letter to encourage Cornell to do the same….

As students, we seek good faith discussion and intellectual challenge. Such discourse is difficult, however, when many Cornellians are scared to challenge the progressive status quo and speak in opposition to those pushing ideological conformity. Cornell witnessed the basis of this fear firsthand last year when, in response to Student Assembly members voting against a controversial disarmament measure, many Cornell students engaged in harassment campaigns, bullying, and other shameful behavior to browbeat SA members into changing their votes….

We write as a group of liberals frustrated with the current campus hostility towards free speech and open dialogue. We believe that a repressive campus culture only isolates and radicalizes, but does not eliminate, those with dissenting views. The goal is to win hearts and minds — not to cancel them. While we find the left’s policy goals laudable, we question the tactics used by our fellow students to achieve those goals. It is important to approach others with goodwill and charity, yet oftentimes we struggle to extend these virtues to our peers and friends….

We worry that while many progressives stifle debate with the intention to make others feel included, they ultimately create a culture that is not only exclusive but dogmatic.

I have seen little evidence that the Cornell administration recognizes the anti-free expression problem on campus. While there are flowery statements about freedom of speech, senior administrators joined the mob twice in 2020 in publically denouncing dissident professors. (The university president and senior staff denounced Prof. David Collum, and the then-Dean of Cornell Law School denounced me.) That sets a campus tone of intolerance that students understand.

This Op-Ed by liberal students deserves the attention of the Cornell administration. The campus culture is not well.

[Featured Image: Michael Johns, Sr. addressing Cornell Political Union after event almost cancelled due to student activist threats]


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Let’s get real. No college before students attain the age of 30. I am tired of reading about students whose brains have yet to mature.

    utroukx in reply to kjon. | August 31, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    It won’t matter. They’ve already churned out so many teachers who are spreading the same indoctrination into primary schools. In fact, there is no industry that hasn’t been poisoned by the left.

And these same fools, WITHOUT A HINT OF SELF-AWARENESS, will demand that a conservative professor be fired or that a conservative speaker be ‘uninvited’.

Another Voice | August 31, 2021 at 11:37 pm

Came across an essay earlier this evening at The Atlantic. The author of the essay follows the same road which Prof. J. has documented over these past 5 years and continues to pull the curtain back on the teaching and student environment on campuses across America. It is a national issue which is getting more public exposure and thus attention. I believe as a result of what parents of children are just realizing what is happening in their class rooms of their local school districts as a result of the fall out due to Covid putting class rooms in their home living spaces. People are starting to step up and speak out.

Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless. By Anne Applebaum
Illustrations by Nicolas Ortega

It’s a slippery slope to hell. One that is greased with each seemingly minor compromise.

It started about 25 years ago when “politically-correct” speech became a thing. Now you are shunned and cancelled if you don’t use someone’s “preferred pronoun” or are not sensitive to “cultural appropriation” meaning we have stooped to allowing < 2% of the people shut-down free speech. People cower because those 2% are nasty assholes who will shout "racist" at the top of their lungs. They only have power because the other 98% are too dumb and cowardly. If we all stood up – those nasty 2% would be revealed as paper tigers.

    Stuytown in reply to Ben Kent. | September 1, 2021 at 10:24 am

    People are sheep. Easily intimidated. Historical evidence is unfortunately abundant. We are in a new Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy era.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Ben Kent. | September 1, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Yup. The crux is the “2%” thing. This is being driven by an exceedingly small minority of students, who, due to their aggressive and violent nature, are being catered to by school administrators. They should be ignored, and if they respond with aggression and violence, they should be ejected from the institution and banned from campus. But instead administrators are ejecting and banning those who are brave enough to speak out against the oppression, with the excuse that (a minority of) students object to the presence of “racists” on campus and in the student body.

Diversity is not valued when it isn’t viewpoint either.

1. Frenchmen, German, Pole, Russian, Turk, Greek, Italian, Spaniard, Finn, Lithuanian

2. A Mongol, a Vietnamese, a Filipino, a Japanese, a Han Chinese, a Korean, a Cambodian, a Malayan, an Indonesian and a Tibetan

Do either groups have any diversity or not? Their answer is no those are all just white guys they aren’t representing different cultures, backgrounds and experiences that could enrich they are just whites in the first and in the second they are not diverse at all they are just Asians.

They are actively against the concept of cultural diversity as well as diversity of thought their definition of diversity is “MELANIN RACE RACE UBER ALLLES”.

and I continue to receive letters from the Alumni Association asking me to donate 🤣🤣

The left does not like free speech at all these days

The fact that “a relatively small group of campus activists are able to instill fear even in liberals,” has been the case since this horseshit began in the 1960s. Since then, of course the so-called “free speech movement” on college campuses (remember Mario Savio?) has changed into the strident domination of the campus by hard-line Socialists and their retarded cousins and useful idiots, the SJWs, whose politics sees “free speech” as an impediment to their fucked-up “revolution” and their juvenile ideas of Progressivism.

I now agree with Jordan Peterson who declares the American university a lost cause and, to go even further, agree with Michael Malice, the Anarchist who says “sending the tanks into Harvard Square” is the best way to “reform” American higher education.

Interesting that Cornell recently hired Oberlin’s architect of anarchy into its administration. Oberlin’s gain is Cornell’s loss.

Respectfully, I disagree on the “state action”/First Amendment status of Cornell. There are four statutory colleges – ILR, Human Ecology, Vet, and Agriculture and Life Sciences that are integral units of the State University of New York and receive annual state appropriations through the SUNY budget. Those for units (and perhaps others) are state actors. Fortunately, Cornell has drafted conduct codes and judicial systems equally applicable to both the statutory and the endowed colleges because they don’t want to appear to give the statutory college students more constitutionally protected rights than the endowed college students.

I would urge Cornell to adopt the Chicago Statement and to offer FIRE’s orientation materials in lieu of the CRT mandatory training during new student orientation week.

So many Cornell graduates have gone on to become true champions of the First Amendment. It is embarrassing to see things get so bad on campus.