Massachusetts College Pays Lip Service to Free Speech

Campus leftists’ brazen attempt to stifle free speech was on full display last month at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Don Feder, a conservative columnist and lecturer with Young America’s Foundation, had to end his speech abruptly after ten minutes due to repeated heckling and interruptions.

Protesters incessantly yelled, booed, hissed, jeered, and shouted at him during his talk. Others surged into the room through the side door after admittance was halted, and many of them turned chairs around rambunctiously to incite further disruptions. One protester even brought a rat into the auditorium. Overall, leftist demonstrators successfully and intentionally created organized chaos at the event.

Astonishingly, UMass officials have blamed Feder for the ruckus, not those students who prevented him from speaking. In a letter to the Boston Globe, Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesman for UMass, wrote, “Feder chose to discontinue his speech,” thereby absolving the police officers, the protestors, and the administration of any culpability.

Claiming that Feder chose to end his speech voluntarily is deliberately deceiving. He was unable to talk freely without being constantly interrupted. He was unable to talk freely without being constantly yelled at. And he was unable to talk freely without being constantly laughed at. Such antics did not go unnoticed. Privately, a cadre of administrators and students admitted to me that they, too, would’ve stopped speaking if under similar duress. Certainly no self-respecting UMass professor would have allowed themselves to be treated the same way that Feder was.

Adding insult to injury, school officials are now claiming that the campus police department spiked the cost for security at the lecture because the number of anticipated attendees increased. These same folks allege that they were unable to provide the basic security afforded to all student groups because I refused to pick a larger room for Mr. Feder’s talk.

The truth is that the police department told me to my face that they strongly encouraged our club to hire three additional officers in order to manage unruly protestors, and that is why they inflated our security costs to the tune of three times the normal rate. In addition, I did not “refuse” to move the venue to another location. In fact, the Cape Cod Lounge, where the event was held, was the only suitable location available to us, as all the other venues had already been booked.

Regardless, it boils down to this: UMass officials should direct their ire at the student groups responsible for disrupting our event: the Campus Anti-War Network, International Socialist Organization, Coalition Against Hate, and Radical Student Union.

Instead, University apparatchiks have created the impression that it’s our fault for inviting Feder to begin with; that Mr. Feder ended his speech without cause; and that the campus police department charged us fairly for security. We’ve been targeted as the aggressors, while the leftists who stymied our program have been given a slap on the wrist, if that.

Does this incident demonstrate liberal bias at the University of Massachusetts Amherst? Try a thought experiment with me: would UMass officials have allowed conservative students to interrupt and shout down Sen. John Kerry and Gov.r Deval Patrick, both of whom have spoken on campus within the past few years? Furthermore, would have UMass administrators then blamed Kerry and Patrick for the commotion?

Truth be told, conservatives would never engage in that type of disrespectful behavior, for we understand that tolerance is a two-way street. Students should be allowed to explore all ideas, not just the ones that liberal students and administrators prefer. A balanced education, after all, is not attained when only one side of an issue is presented.

Unfortunately, the UMass administration still does not grasp that concept.