You don’t hear many good stories about free speech on our college campuses these days. So I am pleased to write and share one today. It actually comes from my own campus, UNC-Wilmington. In a rare display of support for free speech, the Student Government Association (SGA) has decided to fund a speech by an extremely unpopular conservative professor (Can you guess his name?). In the process, they will be supporting free speech and the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. This requires some explanation. So put away your handguns and go grab a beer – or grab a soda if you’re a Baptist.
It all started over the summer when the UNCW College Republicans (CRs) decided to host a speaker on the issue of free speech on college campuses. So they contacted Patrick Coyle of the Young Americas Foundation (YAF) for advice on whom they should invite. He suggested that they just have me give the speech since I am already there teaching at the university. So the CRs contacted me, inquired about my speaking fee, and requested that I give a November 9th speech in Morton Hall Auditorium, which seats about 100 people. I quoted my fee but told them I would only do the speech in Lumina Theater, which is a nicer venue and seats about three times as many people. After all, if I am going to offend people by suggesting they should tolerate offensive speech then I want to offend as many as possible.
Shortly thereafter, I learned that there is a committee that filters speaking event proposals before they are sent to the floor of the senate for a full vote. Imagine my surprise when the proposal made it out of the committee. But the committee members warned the CRs that they should not get their hopes up, as the event was not likely to be funded when the full senate voted on it. That warning did not surprise me, as there were likely to be two major objections to funding the speech.
First of all, many would naturally question why someone who works at a university would actually charge a fee to speak at…