The climate for campus speech is troubled, but not the way people might think, says UW-Madison’s Don Moynihan.
It seems lately that every political commentator and columnist has become an authority on the state of free speech on college campuses. We’re constantly hearing that universities have been taken over by coddled students demanding to be protected from any idea or opinion that might make them uncomfortable. Lately the debate over campus speech has gotten even more intense, thanks to a few key events: the outcry at UW-Madison over a student trying to start a white nationalist group—a student who turned out to have a history of fighting black churches on fire—and a national campus tour by Breitbart troll Milo Yiannopolous, who outed a transgender student at UW-Milwaukee and canceled a speech at the University of California Berkeley amid violent protest.
Also here in Wisconsin, a state senator named Steve Nass has continued a long-established pattern of threatening the UW System’s state funding over classes he finds too controversial or deems too politically correct, as other political leaders including Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos float policy proposals related to campus speech.
One of the voices of reason between the canned narratives has been Don Moynihan, a professor at UW-Madison’s La Follette school of public affairs. Moynihan has been offering a lot of even-handed perspective lately on Twitter, and in a January op-ed in The New York Times, titled “Who’s Really Placing Limits on Free Speech?” Moynihan sat down with me last week. Give our conversation a listen below. Moynihan also joined us on the podcast last year to discuss less serious matters.