October 31, 2003


October Diary (John Derbyshire, National Review Online, 10/30/03)

One of my lesser ambitions was fulfilled this month: I have been banned from the campus of a U.S. college on the strength of my opinions. The college in question, though perfectly respectable, is not very big or important, but I am flattered nonetheless. . . .

I was coming to this college to talk about analytic number theory, not homosexuality or "straight flight." It was not the topic of my address that bothered the lady, but my opinions about unrelated matters. Her position was not: "Mr. Derbyshire is coming here to voice unacceptable opinions." (A position that would be deplorable enough in itself. As if the minds of Midwestern liberal-arts students are so delicate they need to be shielded from dangerous ideas!) Her position was: "Mr. Derbyshire holds some opinions I consider extreme, and so I do not want him on my campus at all, in any capacity." She would presumably object to me being hired as a janitor on her campus, because of my opinions.

I would pay money to hear Mr. Derbyshire speak on any subject he chose, even obscure issues in number theory. Preferably, this would take place in a small group of likeminded people, over a good single malt and fine cigars. Nonetheless, conservatives should immediately champion the right of this college to block any speaker they want for any reason. There is never a bad reason to try to resuscitate the right of association.

Posted by David Cohen at October 31, 2003 10:08 AM

Does it make a difference if the college in this case is private or public?

If they're private, I'd say, sure, fine, they can refuse to allow Derbyshire on their campus. And we will heckle them unmercifully.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at October 31, 2003 10:28 AM

If their public we can use it as an excuse to
de-fund them.

Posted by: J.H. at October 31, 2003 11:08 AM

Does it make a difference? As matters now stand, it certainly does.

Should it make a difference? I'm ambivalent. I think that Va should be allowed to have a military style college open only to men, if it so chooses. I think that Congress can, constitutionally, and should forbid the states from sponsoring institutions segregated by race. I think that private institutions, within broad limits, have the right to discriminate.

I may change my mind after further thought, but my answer is that secondary or tertiary state institutions, like colleges and universities, should be allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination. I say this knowing that, as things currently stand, my viewpoints would suffer disproportionately from my rule.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 31, 2003 11:21 AM

It would be helpful if alumni applied the right to the administrations and faculty.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2003 12:18 PM

Courageous, David. I'm with you on the issue of "rights" here. But, given the reality of the average large university, to what extent can it be said they are capable of holding and expressing coherent viewspoints at all, in the sense of credibly saying they reject ideas as incompatible with their underlying creeds? Is not close-minded "shout-em-down bigotry" a more likely result than a reasoned defence of first principles? Sould we care?

Posted by: Peter B at November 1, 2003 6:06 AM