Attorney General Jeff Sessions says many colleges have become a “shelter for fragile egos,” and are suppressing disfavored speech.
“The American university was once the center of academic freedom—a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas. But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought,” Sessions said in a prepared speech at Georgetown Law School on Sept. 26.
In his speech, Sessions gave a passionate defense of the First Amendment and lamented the state of free speech at America’s colleges.
“The Federalists against the Anti-federalists, Abraham Lincoln against Stephen Douglas, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. against George Wallace. Indeed, it was the power of Dr. King’s words that crushed segregation and overcame the violence of the segregationists. At so many times in our history as a people, it was speech—and still more speech—that led Americans to a more just, more perfect union,” he said.
According to the Attorney General, one-third of public colleges have written policies banning disfavored speech.
“But who decides what is offensive and what is acceptable? The university is about the search for truth, not the imposition of truth by a government censor,” Sessions said.
Sessions comments come after a number of incidents this year on college campuses around the country where speakers were either shut down or prevented from speaking.
In February, black hooded far-left Antifa extremists attacked people, set fires, and caused over $150,000 in damage to university buildings, in their successful attempt to prevent controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from giving a speech.
When conservative author Charles Murray visited Middlebury College in Vermont in March to debate one of the university’s own professors, over 400 protesters, mostly students, disrupted the event.
They shouted and chanted for 20 minutes, preventing the debate from taking place, according to a statement by the university.
“When the debaters attempted to move to a private broadcasting location, the protestors—many in masks, a common tactic also used by the detestable Ku Klux Klan—pulled fire alarms, surrounded the speakers, and began physically assaulting them,” Sessions said.
Editor-in-chief of conservative website Daily Wire Ben Shapiro was able to give a speech at UC Berkeley earlier this month, but only after the campus paid an estimated $600,000 in security costs, including the construction of a concrete wall against violent protesters.
“In the end, Mr. Shapiro spoke to a packed house. And to my knowledge, no one fainted, no one was unsafe. No one needed counseling,” Sessions said.
He also called out so-called “free speech zones” that some colleges created where free speech is tolerated only in certain geographically confined areas.
A 27-year-old student filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Community College District after he was barred from handing out Spanish language copies of the constitution outside of the so-called “free speech zones.”
“When I attempted to hand out copies of the Constitution that day, my only intention was to get students thinking about our founding principles and to inspire discussion of liberty and free speech,” Shaw said according to a local CBS affiliate.
Sessions said that the situation “is not right” and is “not in the great tradition of America.”
According to him school administrators are bending to the misbehavior of students and are encouraging it.
Sessions said that the Department of Justice will now get involved in the issue.
“We will enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression from whatever end of the political spectrum it may come,” Sessions said.
“To that end, we are filing a Statement of Interest in a campus free speech case this week and we will be filing more in the weeks and months to come.”