Censorship-by-vandalism as free speech: That’s doubleplusgood, comrade!

Via the Foundation for Indvididual Rights in Education (FIRE), comes this outrageous story:

A professor at Northern Kentucky University said she invited students in one of her classes to destroy an anti-abortion display on campus Wednesday evening.

NKU police are investigating the incident, in which 400 crosses were removed from the ground near University Center and thrown in trash cans. The crosses, meant to represent a cemetery for aborted fetuses, had been temporarily erected last weekend by a student Right to Life group with permission from NKU officials.

Public universities cannot ban such displays because they are a type of symbolic speech that has been protected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Witnesses reported “a group of females of various ages” committing the vandalism bout 5:30 p.m., said Dave Tobertge, administrative sergeant with the campus police.

Sally Jacobsen, a longtime professor in NKU’s literature and language department, said the display was dismantled by about nine students in one of her graduate-level classes.

“I did, outside of class during the break, invite students to express their freedom-of-speech rights to destroy the display if they wished to,” Jacobsen said.

Asked whether she participated in pulling up the crosses, the professor said, “I have no comment.”

She said she was infuriated by the display, which she saw as intimidating and a “slap in the face” to women who might be making “the agonizing and very private decision to have an abortion.”

Jacobsen said it originally wasn’t clear who had placed the crosses on campus.

She said that could make it appear that NKU endorsed the message.

Pulling up the crosses was similar to citizens taking down Nazi displays on Fountain Square, she said.

“Any violence perpetrated against that silly display was minor compared to how I felt when I saw it. Some of my students felt the same way, just outraged,” Jacobsen said.

A photo of Jacobsen pulling up one of the crosses can be seen here, in the student publication The Northerner Online, which also reports that the right-to-life group which planted the crosses plans to press charges.

Commendably, NKU president James Vortuba has condemned the actions of Jacobsen and her little vigilante band:

“I am very disappointed that this happened,” Votruba said. “At a university, the opposing views should be able to bump up against each other. Responding with pamphlets or speeches would have allowed the power of ideas to compete.”

No kidding.

At a time when many worry, with some justification, about a chilly climate for speech critical of the government and the war, or otherwise seen as unpatriotic, this incident is a reminder that old-fashioned (the 1980s and ’90s being the “old times” in this case) left-wing PC speech suppression on college campuses persists as well. Note, too, Jacobsen’s excuse for her actions, which simultaneously conjures up images of weak-minded females too fragile to cope with the “violence” of an unpleasant opinion about abortion and of Orwellian speech police presenting speech suppression as an exercise in free speech. As a pro-choice friend of mine put it: That’s doubleslusgood, comrade.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Censorship-by-vandalism as free speech: That’s doubleplusgood, comrade!

  1. colagirl

    Wow, I hadn’t heard about this. Phew. Nice to see the professor Godwinning herself too, with that Nazi comparison. And is it just me, or does the response of the NKU president leave something to be desired? (i.e. “disappointed” that this happened.)

  2. Lori Heine

    So this professor thinks it’s all about how she FEELS? About how the handful of students who agree with her may feel?

    More touchy-feely nuttiness from the Left.

    Northern Kentucky is probably, for the most part, a pretty conservative school. If we’re going to descend totally into Touchy-Feely Land, then far more students and faculty members have doubtless been offended by what this professor did. They — not she — ought to win the Golden Feeler and be rewarded for being more numerous. That’s how we settle issues these days, isn’t it?

    But seriously, it still hasn’t sunken in, with those on the academic Left, that free speech means free speech FOR EVERYBODY.

    If they were really sincere in their concern for the oppressed and the voiceless, they would shed at least a few tears for the unborn babies who will never be able to express their opinions about anything.

  3. Pablo

    “I did, outside of class during the break, invite students to express their freedom-of-speech rights to destroy the display their freedom-of-speech rights to destroy the display if they wished to,” Jacobsen said.

    And she’s teaching language? She should be fired as incompetent just for uttering that abomination.

  4. mythago


    More touchy-feely nuttiness from the Left.

    This is academia nuttiness, not Left nuttiness. As I posted over on Robert’s blog, I well remember my own college days–the campus Objectivist group got it into their heads that a small, pro-First Amendment group to which I belonged was anti-Objectivist. Every time we put up posters for an event, they’d be torn down or ostentatiously covered over with two layers of Objectivist propaganda.

  5. Synova

    The article I read said something about her serving as temporary head of Women’s Studies. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)

    Couple of days ago I put a post up at my blog titled, “Free speech isn’t free until it hurts.”

    No one needs to go see if I said anything new or interesting though. The body of the post just says, “You know I’m right.”

    ;-)

  6. Revenant

    This is academia nuttiness, not Left nuttiness

    Like there’s a difference between the two on most college campuses…

  7. sled

    Kentucky has a North?

  8. mythago

    Like there’s a difference between the two on most college campuses…

    Indeed there is. One of its manifestations is the insistence that OUR SIDE is reasonable, thoughtful and the only ones willing to debate, whereas THEIR SIDE is full of screaming ideologues.

  9. Revenant

    Indeed there is. One of its manifestations is the insistence that OUR SIDE is reasonable, thoughtful and the only ones willing to debate, whereas THEIR SIDE is full of screaming ideologues.

    It is all well and good to say that campuses have a problem with mobs of intolerant right-wingers attacking those who disagree with them, and mobs of intolerant left-wingers attacking those who disagree with them. The thing is that the former group doesn’t actually exist. There are no right-wing professors calling for, for example, the vandalism of anti-war displays. That may only be because there are virtually no right-wing professors in the first place, but nevertheless. :)

    Now it is certainly true that there are both left- and right-wing *students*, some of whom display intolerance (e.g. tearing down of opposing groups’ fliers). But that’s not a problem with academia, that’s a problem with student immaturity; young adults do that sort of crap whether they’re in school or not. The only problem academia itself has is left-wing intolerance of non-leftist ideas.

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