CBS Showcases Suppression of Speech at Colleges, Avoids Liberal Label

The journalists at CBS This Morning on Monday actually showcased the growing problem of suppression of speech on college campuses, in this case at commencement addresses. Reporter Don Dahler even featured a representative from a conservative group fighting for open dialogue. However, the segment avoided hinting that this is primarily a problem on the left. Dahler featured former Princeton President William Bowen. While speaking at Haverford, he lectured those students for pressuring another speaker to withdrawal. 

Bowen complained, "I regard this outcome as a defeat, pure and simple, for Haverford. No victory for anyone who believes, as I think most of us do, in openness to many points of view and mutual respect." He added, "In my view they would have encouraged him to come and engage in a serious discussion." Regarding the cancellation of other speakers, Greg Lukianoff from the Foundation  of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worried, "It's reaching the point where these purity tests are so strict that it's hard to imagine who will allowed to speak on the campus in the future." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Representatives for FIRE are not often seen on seen on CBS. But Dahler featured Lukianoff twice. He added, 

GREG LUKIANOFF: Students and faculty have absolutely every right to protest speakers they dislike. But when the goal is to make sure the speaker doesn't speak on campus at all, that's a bad sign for the marketplace of ideas that our campuses are supposed to be.

This particular cancellation arose after Haverford's original choice, Robert Birgeneau, the former chancellor of the University of California-Berkeley, was pressured out for cracking down on Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2011. 

The words "liberal" and "left-wing" were not uttered in the segment. Dahler did note, " Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled her graduation address at Rutgers amidst uproar over her role in the Iraq War." He also mentioned the ousting of International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde as a speaker for Smith College. 

Liberals at that school objected to Lagarde's supposedly not doing enough to help developing nations. 

No mention was made of Brandeis University withdrawing an offer for Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak. Hirsi Ali has become a strong critic of Islam.  

On Friday, Today's Peter Alexander worried at college campuses are becoming "islands of intolerance." However, Alexander, just like Dahler on CBS, failed to label such intolerance as being liberal. 

A transcript of the May 19 segment is below: 


7:34

CBS GRAPHIC: Harsh Send-Off: Graduation Speaker Calls Out Class Over Protests

NORAH O'DONNELL: And student protesters are forcing high profile commencement speakers to cancel appearances this morning, but graduates at one of the leading liberal arts schools  may have gotten more than they bargained for. Their replacement pick wasn't impressed. Don Dahler shows us the tough words for the senior class near Philadelphia. Don, good morning. 

DON DAHLER: Commencement speeches are usually inspirational, sometimes funny and occasionally boring. That's why William Bowen's address on Sunday may have taken some students by surprise. Across the country, notable names from various walks of life are delivering words of encouragement to the class of 2014. 

ERIC HOLDER: Good luck to each and every one of you. 

SEAN COMBS: I can't wait to watch you change the world. 

DAHLER: But at Haverford college, graduates got an earful. 

WILLIAM BOWEN: I regard this outcome as a defeat, pure and simple, for Haverford. No victory for anyone who believes, as I think most of us do, in openness to many points of view and mutual respect. 

DAHLER: Former Princeton University President William Bowen called out students who opposed the original speaker, Robert Birgeneau. They'd wanted Birgeneau to apologize for the treatment of student protesters at the University of California Berkeley in 2011 when he was chancellor. Instead of apologizing, he canceled on Haverford. 

BOWEN: In my view they would have encouraged him to come and engaged a serious discussion. 

GREG LUKIANOFF (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education): Students and faculty are becoming increasingly creative in what they're objecting to from a speaker and it's reaching the point where these purity tests are so strict that it's hard to imagine who will allowed to speak on the campus in the future. 

DAHLER: It's just a latest in a series of protests across college campuses. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled her graduation address at Rutgers amidst uproar over her role in the Iraq War. And the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, withdraw from Smith College's commencement after criticism over the organization's policies in developing nations. 

LUKIANOFF: Students and faculty have absolutely every right to protest speakers they dislike. But when the goal is to make sure the speaker doesn't speak on campus at all, that's a bad sign for the marketplace of ideas that our campuses are supposed to be.  

DAHLER: As for Haverford's commencement scolding, one called the comments offensive called CBS News, "Bowen patronized and belittled students for voicing true concern over honoring someone over who presided over a violent crackdown against peaceful protesters." Gayle? 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org