Republican Platform Calls for Free Speech on Campus
August 30, 2012
by Joseph Cohn
Exciting news this week from the Republican National Convention. No, I'm not talking about any of the speeches, nor anything having to do with the Presidential race. I'm not even talking about the guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the convention stage. This week, the Republican Party adopted the following plank in its national platform (see page 12):
[W]e oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of "political correctness" on campus.
Of course, FIRE is a proudly nonpartisan organization. We stand up for free speech on campus regardless of what part of the political spectrum the speech represents. We work productively with Democrats and Republicans, and count many Libertarians among our friends too. (Does anyone really want to be censored?) And of course, we defend plenty of speech that isn't political at all.
That said, you have to give credit where credit is due. No matter your political beliefs, this plank is worthy of praise. It's a powerful endorsement of the concerns that lie at the heart of FIRE's mission.
Next week, the Democratic Party will convene in Charlotte, North Carolina, for its convention, where it will officially adopt its 2012 platform. Since late July, its Platform Drafting Committee has been crafting the national platform, and the committee's full work has not yet been published. FIRE would love to see the Democratic Party adopt a similarly strong plank condemning speech codes, free speech zones, and censorship on our nation's campuses. The constituency in either party that supports censorship on campus is vanishingly small. After all, free speech is not a partisan issue. As my colleague Robert Shibley said this morning, "Politics stops at the edge of the free speech zone"—a statement that's true in more ways than one.
If the Democrats haven't already done so this go-around, we hope that next time free speech on campus is championed in their national platform, too. Once the campus free speech plank is in both parties' national platforms, we'll have a vivid bipartisan consensus about protecting the free speech rights of all students on campuses across the country. (We've already seen a bipartisan Congressional resolution in this vein.) Until then, FIRE will continue working together with both sides of the aisle to ensure that when policies affecting free speech on campuses are debated in Washington, everyone walks the walk.