In the hours leading up to Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s hotly-contested speech at the University of California, Berkeley on Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a fierce proponent of free speech, issued a blunt warning to colleges that restrict free speech on their campuses.
Speaking to The Daily Wire on Tuesday, Jordan, who chaired the Congressional hearings in July to discuss free speech on college campuses at which Shapiro testified, issued this statement:
Colleges have historically been that place where you make your best argument, have a full and robust debate, and let ideas flow. But now we often find that if you’re libertarian or conservative and are invited to speak on campus, you later get disinvited. If they’re allowed to speak at all, conservatives and libertarians get shouted down or in some cases actual riots break out. If public colleges and universities continue to allow this to occur, Congress may have to get involved.
Near the end of the July hearing that included Shapiro, Jordan had his own questions for him. He began, "Mr. Shapiro; your thoughts on a speech code. Shouldn’t it be the First Amendment? Shouldn’t that be sufficient?"
Absolutely, and I think that we’re moving into very dangerous territory when we start identifying speech as violence. That, I think, is what’s happening more and more often in our politics; I think it’s happening on college campuses; when you start saying that what you say offends me to the point where I’m going to treat it as violence, then we are moments away from an actual violent conflagration, and that has to stop immediately.
Jordan then asked:
Do you think, Mr. Shapiro, that some of the things we have seen from the federal government are contributing to what I would describe as the crazy situations on many campuses, situations you’ve had to go through and live through? Do you think some of the things that the government has done are chilling free speech on college campuses, and specifically, and frankly, what prompted my renewed interest, or greater interest, I should say, in this series of hearings we’re having on was a few years ago when we discovered with the power and the ability to intimidate and impact people’s lives, the agency known as the Internal Revenue Service, was systematically and for a sustained period of time, targeting people for their political beliefs. Do you think that has some chilling impact on what may be what is in fact happening on our college campuses?
Sure. When people have an enormous amount of power, whether it’s on an administrative level or the federal level, they tend to use it in ways that benefit the side that they control; I think you’ve seen this, it’s a completely different topic but I think you’ve seen this in how a lot of the sexual assault hearings are taking place on campus now, where they’re taking place under Title IX auspices, and they don’t actually follow any constitutional due process procedure. That’s an area where the federal government has gotten involved, and really overridden individual rights, and listen, nobody is in favor of sexual assault, everybody wants to see rapists prosecuted, but we need to come back to some sort of rational standard of application, and not just what we wish we could do in some sort of Utopia.
Jordan, who was sitting in front of a screen that quoted the First Amendment, concluded the hearing by noting that the five speakers invited to testify ranged across the political spectrum. He stated:
We try to invite people who believe in the sign that's behind me. That's what we try to do, and people who are willing to defend it, who are willing to say that this is paramount to the American experience and who we are as a nation. And that's what this series of hearings that we are undertaking in this committee are all about.