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Compelled Speech is a Campus Free Speech Issue That Deserves Attention

Compelled Speech is a Campus Free Speech Issue That Deserves Attention

“Litigation may be necessary to challenge and end campus compelled speech.”

If you work for a college or university that has adopted an official position on a progressive issue, you are expected to affirm that position. Why is this so rarely discussed?

George R. La Noue writes at Law & Liberty:

Time to Challenge Compelled Speech?

Discussions of speech law almost always begin with the First Amendment requirement that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. That restriction now applies to all government agencies at every level through the application of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since about 85% of all higher education students attend public institutions, free speech rights are protected there at least in theory. Almost all private campuses have adopted principles of free speech and if they are violated, courts have found those actions precluded by contract law.

Free speech controversies are often focused on acts of censorship such as speech cancellations, speech codes, safe spaces, and bias response teams. There is another type of free speech issue, however, that receives much less attention: speech that is not censored but compelled. Increasing numbers of campuses have adopted political statements that employees and prospective employees are expected to affirm publicly. If they do not, they may be excluded from employment consideration. If they are already hired, they may be subject to discipline or even termination. Litigation may be necessary to challenge and end campus compelled speech.

Land Acknowledgement Statements

One controversy is over “Land Acknowledgement” statements, which faculty have recently challenged. Sprouting across the county, these declarations urge campus residents to recognize the indigenous peoples who may once have resided in the local area and to honor them and their current lineage. That may be harmless virtue signaling, since campuses have no intention of returning the land to a tribe or paying reparations.

The context of the “Acknowledgement,” however, is highly political, suggesting a campus and even the United States as a country are on “occupied land” and, therefore, probably illegitimate. For example, the Northwestern University statement proclaims “Land acknowledgments do not exist in the past tense, or historical contexts: colonialism is a current ongoing process….” The Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement urges campuses not to “sugarcoat the past. Use terms like genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land and forced removal to reflect actions taken by colonizers.”


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The “Land Acknowledgement Statements” are relatively harmless virtue signaling. The most coercive type of compelled speech is the “Diversity Statement” than many colleges require all applicants to submit. These “Diversity Statements” serve as a litmus test to eliminate conservative and moderate applicants.

My advice to people who are required to submit “Diversity Statements” is to give them exactly what they want. Smart applicants will simply use boilerplate available online and reword it as applicable. See, for example:

Since the requirement for a political litmus test is itself unethical, an applicant has no ethical reason to be truthful in preparing the response. If I were required to submit such a political statement, I would massage the boilerplate available online together with the material on the school’s website to come up with the facade of a dedicated activist. I’d give them a load of woke BS that would make them think I was the love child of Ibram X Kendi and Nikole Hannah-Jones.

    healthguyfsu in reply to OldProf2. | March 31, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    Dedicated leftists are watchful and observant for generics. I’ve sat on hiring committees with them and have seen it.

    Heck, I’ve even used it to my advantage when there was a candidate I rejected on grounds of their merit but didn’t want to stir the pot.

    The point being that you have to pretend hard to get past the cultists.

      randian in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 31, 2022 at 9:08 pm

      The point being that you have to pretend hard to get past the cultists

      That would, I suspect, be quite a bit easier for us than pretending to be a conservative would be for them.

IF something is stolen, how is it legal to not give it back? Statute of limitations?

Further, if colonizing a space means you don’t belong there, you are there through theft and false pretenses — that’s exactly what the wokesters are doing to college campii. They don’t belong, they are there to destroy everything, to ruin it, to make it something it was never meant to be.

Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.