Outside Agitators



Hattip to Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy.  Remember Mireille Miller-Young, an associate professor of “feminist studies” at the University of California Santa Barbara, who is currently charged with assault, battery and vandalism in regard to taking a sign from a teenage pro-lifer?  Go here to read all about it.  Now you would think that an institution supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of learning would have something to say about a professor who is apparently unable to control herself when confronted with views that she despises.  Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UCSB did address it in this open letter to students.  He comes out in favor of free speech, but somehow does not name the professor, the incident, and, echoing segregationists of the past, seems to blame the problem of intolerance on campus on outsiders:



Dear Students:

Over the past several weeks, our campus has been visited by a number of outside groups and individuals coming here to promote an ideology, to promulgate particular beliefs (at times extreme beliefs), or simply to create discord that furthers a certain personal agenda. Some passionately believe in their causes, while others peddle hate and intolerance with less-than-noble aims. Whatever the motives and goals, the presence of such people and groups on campus can be disruptive and has the potential to draw us into the kind of conflict that puts at risk the quality of exchange of ideas that is fundamental to the mission of our university.

What is happening now is not new: evangelical types have been visiting UCSB and university campuses since time immemorial. What we see at UCSB today is simply the most recent generation of true believers, self-proclaimed prophets, and provocateurs. During the past few weeks, UCSB has been visited by various anti-abortion crusaders. Some have been considerate and thoughtful in promoting their message; others have openly displayed images that many in our community find distressing and offensive. We have also seen earnest and thoughtful religious missionaries, and we have seen proselytizers hawking intolerance in the name of religious belief. As a consequence of interactions with the more extreme of our visitors, students have expressed outrage, pain, embarrassment, fear, hurt, and feelings of harassment. Moreover, I have received requests that the campus prohibit the peddling of “fear,” “hate,” “intolerance,” and “discord” here at UCSB.

Those of you who know me are aware that I have strong views on the matter of intolerance. You also know that I hold equally strong views on the sanctity of free speech. If you have heard me speak at Convocation or at anti-hate events, or if you have seen me officiating at the Queer Wedding, you know that my message on both counts is clear. Recent events lead me to believe that this message bears repeating.

First, the principle of freedom of expression resides at the very foundation of our society and, most certainly, at the foundation of a world-class university such as UC Santa Barbara. Freedom and rights are not situational: we either have freedom of speech or we do not. We cannot pick and choose which views are allowed to be aired and who is allowed to speak. If that were the case, then only those in charge — those holding power — would determine who gets to speak and whose views are heard.

Second, freedom is not free. The price of freedom for all to speak is that, at times, everyone will be subjected to speech and expression that we, ourselves, find offensive, hateful, vile, hurtful, provocative, and perhaps even evil. So be it! Law and policy ban only an extremely narrow band of speech and expression — “yelling ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre,” for example, and child pornography. The price we pay to speak our own minds is allowing others to speak theirs, regardless of how oppositional their views are to our own. Our Founding Fathers — all white men of privilege, some even slave owners — got it right when designing the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Having firmly stated my support for freedom of expression, I hasten to follow with a lesson my mother taught me when I was a small child, a lesson that has remained with me the rest of my life and that I relay to our entering students every fall at Convocation. My mother taught me that just because you can say or do something doesn’t mean that you should. Civility plays an important role in how we choose to exercise our right to expression. We all have the right to say odious things, to display offensive slogans and placards, and to hurt and disrespect groups and individuals that disagree with us. The question is: should we? Should we engage in these behaviors just because we can or because they serve our political, religious, or personal agendas?

At UCSB, our students have proven that we are better than this. While it has not always been easy, time and again UCSB students have demonstrated that they can disagree about the critical issues of our time — fundamentally and passionately but within a framework of humanity and civility, respecting the dignity of those whose views they oppose. Time and time again, UCSB students have demonstrated that they understand their role in defining the character and quality of this campus community — revealing their unwillingness to lower themselves to the tactics of those whose agenda comes wrapped in intolerance and extremism.

And now we are tested once again, outsiders coming into our midst to provoke us, to taunt us and attempt to turn us against one another as they promote personal causes and agendas. If we take the bait, if we adopt negative tactics and engage in name calling, confrontation, provocation, and offensive behavior, then they win and our community loses.

While urging you to engage with differing ideas and opinions in a civil manner, I also want to remind you that you have the option not to engage at all. You do not have to listen to, look at, or even acknowledge speech or expression that you find provocative or offensive. The Arbor Mall is a free speech area, as is the area in front of the University Center. If you do not want to be confronted by certain materials or expressions, you should avoid the free-speech areas when you expect that you might encounter them, or simply ignore them. I promise you the visitors will hate that. And, finally, if you think demonstrators, activists, or proselytizers are violating the law, report them to the UC Police Department. If you think they are violating campus policies, report them to the Office of Student Life (OSL). Similarly, if you feel harassed or think you are being subjected to offensive speech or material as an involuntary audience, please contact the Office of Student Life immediately. Katya Armistead, Associate Dean of Student Life and Activities, can be reached at 805-893-8912. If you do not reach her, someone at the general OSL number (805-893-4550) will be able to relay your message to her. The campus regulations address UCSB’s free speech policies further: www.sa.ucsb.edu.

What I am suggesting may not be easy, and it may feel more satisfying (at least for the moment) to lash out. (My mom often reminded me that doing the right thing is difficult.) If you feel that you must respond, hold a peaceful, thoughtful, civil, and dignified counter-demonstration, and show how students engage intellectually and politically at UCSB.

If I may translate this from acadamese:

Hey, you hapless students who help pay my salary of 195 K a year, listen up.  Now you and I know there is only one correct point of view on all major questions, and we dedicate most of our time indoctrinating educating you about these correct points of view.  All of us agree that the right to abortion is sacred.  In regard to idiot anti-choicers, and their disgusting pictures, who come to campus, I would like nothing better than to join you, and your professors, in tarring and feathering them.  Unfortunately that makes for bad press coverage, with anti-choicers screaming about freedom of speech.  We of course have to pay lip service to freedom of speech.  It is a valuable tool for us where and when we lack the power to impose ideological conformity as we do on campus.  At the present time we cannot enforce such conformity around the nation, but we are working on it.  So for now, ignore the fools.  You may well live to pay them back with interest in due time.

More to explorer


  1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 (First,… and Second,…) are rather rational, given that the rest of the letter is a heap of trash.

  2. Oh how this godless liberal states, “Our Founding Fathers — all white men of privilege, some even slave owners — got it right when designing the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

    What is wrong with being white? Or a man? Or having privilege when it is earned? And since when does a person who keeps minorities shackled to the teat of the public treasury get to decry the slave owners of a bygone era? The Founding Fathers pointed the business end of their muskets at those who decried and ridiculed freedom, and pulled the trigger. Pray that doesn’t happen again.

    PS, My Bride loves that I am a white man. I love that she is a Filipino woman.

    I despise Michael D. Young’s liberalism with all my being.

  3. “Our Founding Fathers – all white men of privilege, some even slave owners…” He left out that most were also – ugh – Christian!
    I also like “The price of freedom for all to speak is…allowing others to speak theirs, regardless of how oppositional their views are to our own.” Nice to know that the price of freedom has come down over time. My stupid Catholic forebears died for freedom of speech Argh – we Catholics always pay retail!

  4. All persons are participants at a public university supported by tax money. They cannot be described as ” outside agitators”. The teachers do not own the university any more than the teachers own the students or guests. In fact, Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Church states: “that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions…”
    Guests have not been forbidden as the tax payers own the university in joint and common tenancy.
    In fact, the pro-life persons may return at will. However this action is being taken by Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UCSB to rouse mob mentality and animus against the pro-life opinion. If the students have really been educated to think for themselves, they will choose to let all opinions to be heard, especially those opinions that have the backing of scientific fact of the unique DNA or give the unborn the benefit of a doubt. Something that the Supreme Court for the United States of America ought to have done. That is, if the students are more than clones and indoctrinated.

  5. “If you feel that you must respond, hold a peaceful, thoughtful, civil, and dignified counter-demonstration, and show how students engage intellectually and politically at UCSB.”
    You know Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UCSB was speaking to Mireille Miller-Young.

  6. what an indicator of institutionalized liberalism.

    …which as one of my favorite commentors here is wont to remind us, is a SIN!

  7. I figure all good Catholics should have been advocating the separation of School from State for years and years already–for reasons that include the ones for which this nation’s forefathers wisely protected the Church from State interference via the First Amendment.
    The State of California should get out of the university business. Without the state’s wasteful subsidies, the Grievance Studies departments at 13 UC campuses and twenty-something CSUs would be shuttered PDQ.

  8. I have attended a state run university and the anti-Catholicism is rampant. I was writing in my notebook in a class about WWII and the opinion of the instructor that Pope Pius XII was helping Nazis and disagreeing about it and the instructor saw it. I did pass the class, but from then on I was labeled a “Catholic ” ( the implication was that I was disruptive, and verbally combative.) I was approached by a Muslim man to see if I agreed about multiple wives, and since I did not, was left pretty much alone. To my relief. A university campus used to be a place to learn how to think independently and logically, but they do not even teach logic anymore. Philosophy classes that I observed pretty much became classes about sex practices, and that it is okay to do anything your little heart(or mindless body) wants to do.

  9. “what an indicator of institutionalized liberalism. …which as one of my favorite commentors here is wont to remind us, is a SIN! ”
    Catholics pay taxes. Catholic tax money has the same value as atheist tax money. If liberalism is being indoctrinated at state run schools but not logic, then Catholics are not being represented for their tax money. Again, taxation without representation.

  10. One thousand one hundred fifteen words of leaden prose defending an indefensible position. Methinks the groves of academy are choked with noxious weeds.

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