There is no Free Speech on College Campuses

Jonathon  Burns
Nov 18, 2009 at 1:06 PM

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a number of YAL students at Washington University in St. Louis.

To honor the lives of the tens of millions of human beings who were butchered at the hands of the socialist sickness, we constructed a Soviet Gulag in the center of the campus. To use Valerie Jarrett's phrase, we were 'speaking truth to power' -- the truth being Hayek's dictum:  SOCIALISM LEADS TOTALITARIANISM. We did not turn this into a partisan debate; we merely stayed in character as Soviet socialist guards and gulag prisoners. Find pictures and video here.

Much can be said about this, and I intend to say much about this over the coming days. But one thing is clear: THERE IS NO FREE SPEECH ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES.

As a student you need to disillusion yourself from the notion that colleges are bastions of free speech and expression. They aren't. As we discovered at Washington University-St. Louis, the administration can and will crush free speech when it doesn't mesh with their own beliefs or political correctness.

In future posts I will fully document how we were shut down and why it was totally arbitrary. For now, I just want to reinforce my point.

If there is no free speech on colleges, then what does that mean for liberty activists like you?

It means a couple of things:

1) You must "steel" yourselves for inevitable confrontation with cops. As with everything else socialist, policies -- even arbitrary ones -- cannot be enforced peacefully. At some point, they will have to bring men with guns and night sticks and handcuffs who are authorized to do violence against you. You must prepare yourselves for this encounter.

2) YOU have the moral high ground on this issue. As long as you're not committing violence or destroying property (trampled grass, by the way, is not destruction of property, though you should make serious attempts at preserving the lawn for a number of reasons -- such as avoiding administration retaliation), then you aren't doing anything wrong. You need to realize this fact and internalize it.

3) Just because you are in the moral right, doesn't mean you're not in the civil "wrong."  If you violate their arbitrary and spur of the moment rules, you're still going to be held to account by university authorities. It takes tremendous courage to commit acts of civil disobedience, but then again, isn't freedom worth it? Ask yourself:  what would Martin Luther King, Jr. have done?

4) Do NOT be intimidated by cops. However, make sure you have more than 2 people filming your encounter. This ensures that you will have an accurate representation of the situation later should you encounter legal troubles.

5) Cops do not know the Constitution and they really don't give a damn about free speech or your rights. They are agents of the administration. If a professor complains that students are causing trouble on the quad, the cops don't ask questions; they do what they're told.

6) DEMONSTRATE. You need to get some balls, folks. You need to publicly demonstrate and physically protest against specific policies on your campus and have a list of demands. So your campus has voted to only sell 'fair trade' coffee. Protest this crappy coffee and demand higher quality. Pickett INSIDE the coffee shop on campus. Lay down on the floor and refuse to move. The point is:  find your issue, turn it into a few sexy slogans, localize the issue to your campus, draw up a list of demands, and demonstrate like hell until the administration bows down to your agenda. Then, once you have won, determine your NEXT issue (we have an inexhaustible list), find some sexy slogans, localize the issue, draw up a list of demands, and fight like hell until the administration capitulates. The left does this all the time with great success.

Whenever you demonstrate for liberty and the cops come for you -- and they will come for you sooner or later -- as long as you have video cameras ready, and press realeases ready, chain yourself to anything you can and yell, "HELL NO, WE WON'T GO. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND NOT YOU OR ANYBODY ELSE ON THIS EARTH IS GOING TO SHUT ME UP OR SHUT ME DOWN. I HAVE A RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. THIS IS A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY."

(If it is a private university, do not dispair. The university has a contractual obligation to allow your freedom of speech. Do your research in advance and don't cave to invalid property rights arguments.  You have the moral high ground and should hold the university to any and all contracts it has made with students to allow speech on campus.  FIRE has free books available about free speech, due process, freedom of religion, and other legal issues as they pertain to college campuses, both public and private.)

7) Ask for assistance. Contact some friends, like me at, your buddies at Young Americans for Liberty, Campus Reform, the Alliance Defense Fund, or FIRE  to come fight for you and help you feed your story to the media.

Meanwhile, you should be sending out press releases to every media outlet within a 400 mile radius. Nobody can guarantee that you won't come away from the battle unharmed. Many of us have been expelled, forced to leave college, or put on disciplinary probation. So, you should realize that there is considerable risk.


The answer then, is not to tuck your tail between your legs, but rather FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT.

Your parents will try and calm you down and scare you into inaction. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN. Do you believe in free speech? If so, there is no choice. You must act and damn the consequences. What future do ANY of us have if we lose our liberties? What would have happened to the dream of America if the founders -- men and women like my ancestor Alexander Burns, a buck private in the Continental Army who had only recently immigrated to the colonies, but still was willing to fight for freedom -- had said, "Oh, the cost is too large, the burden is too great. Our liberties aren't worth the hassle or the risk. We shall simply submit"?

Submit? SUBMIT??? Like hell, we'll submit.

There would have been NO America if our ancestors had backed down. Each generation has its crises and its heroes. You YAL students are the heroes of our present era. You're fighting against the establishment, which will gleefully turn us all into serfs before an almighty state if it is given the chance. Are you really going to tell me that you're not willing to fight these bastards because your parents think it's a bad idea, or because you're afraid of some puke bureaucrat at the university is threatening you?

YOU are a free born American. YOU are a bada**. YOU don't take shi* from anybody.

8). The battle lines are drawn. Which side are you on? Are you ready to stand up with the long and noble line of your ancestors who had the guts to tell the British to suck on a banana?  Or are you just going to meekly take it like the rest of the student body, content to constantly get screwed?


If you are a freedom fighter, if you are ready to stand up for free speech, let's stand up together!  There are resources available to help you put up a real fight for freefom on your campus.  If I can be of assistance, contact me here or here.

Happy Hunting.

John Burns

A word on contracts between colleges and students.

Students do not attend colleges (with a handful of exceptions) that explicitly prohibit certain political speech. Rather, the colleges choose to restrict the time, place and manner of the speech. So, you can't use a bull horn next to an academic building while classes are in session, nor can you impede the flow of traffic to or from class.

But there is a difference between impeding the ability of other students to learn, and having your speech crushed at will by administrators. They have offered you a contract that supposedly allows for the free exchange of ideas. They cannot selectively enforce policy, nor can they make policy out of thin air - which is what happened at Wash U STL.

But I would also ask how you would take the fight to the donors without giving them ample examples of the university's bully-boy tactics. Student government is a waste of time and resources. Nothing ever gets done. You might as well play xbox for 4 years.

There's only one way to bring about change on your campus: PAIN. I totally reject as pertinent and valid, the thesis that the administrators are just 'doing their jobs.' Bullshit. So were the prison guards at Treblinka. Further, I would even argue that most administrators are socialists to one degree or another anyway. Conservatives and libertarians ARE without question the puny underdogs of virtually every campus. The notion that leftists are social agitators is ridiculous - THEY ARE NOW 'THE MAN.'

And so what if they are just doing their jobs. If they are contributing to the destruction of the first amendment, then they are contributing to the destruction of dissident speech on the campus. How in the world is this justifiable on any level? Besides, where does the buck stop? Using this argument, we could justify nearly any decision, and the college itself becomes some sort of self-guided machine.

No. Universities are organizations consisting of administrators. Administrators are people. People make policy. Therefore, at some point a person is to blame for the crushing of free speech. There is no job worth keeping if it contributes to the wilfull stifling of free speech. To use a slogan from the leftists: you're either part of the problem, or part of the solution. Administrators acting in such a disgraceful way are cowards and contributing toward grave injustice; as such they do not deserve their honored positions and must be brought down. There is no justification for destroying speech. Pensions be damned.

Going after state aid is great - but it's extremely difficult for a college student to affect this. In some instances this can be an effective strategy. Usually, it's tilting at windmills and a distraction.

ACTIVISM should be focused on achievable, localized issues - the goals of which being to either expose injustice, or to expose injustice and then follow up this expose with a list of demands.

Activism for the sake of activism, and activism with no direct ties to the university is worthless.

Bring pressure to bear on the administration. They only understand pain and bad press. They will not be appeased by quiet meetings or soft words and requests. There are two forms of persuasion: the carrot and the stick. Some groups are open to carrots, but EVERYONE understands the stick.

Wield your metaphorical stick...and beat the shi* out of your administration.

This is how the left took over campuses.

This is how we will take it back.

This is no time for mealy mouthed weakness. The time is ripe for action. We need sledgehammers, not daisies.

Jonathon Burns's picture

The ideal campus situation is simply for all people to be able to communicate without university officials butting-in and crushing thought. People can think what they want and should. But goons aren't content with this. They think they always know best.

Sure, in an ideal world, there would be no state subsidy for higher ed. However, the amount of political muscle involved in achieving this goal is large enough to make the entire discussion academic. With much respect to you, anonymous, I would say that it's near unachievable - currently.

We need to start on simple, tangible goals and develop activism tactics which coincide with those goals. The free trade vs. fair trade example above is a perfect illustration. Goal: free trade coffe. Tactic: staging a sit-in, or sleep-in. The civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s provides a great education in activism. It's impossible for the administrations across the country to turn back the tide of non-violent civil disobedience, once it has started.

Once socialized medicine hits shortly, students will be able to boycott public health insurance and face penalties and jail time. Nobody is going to through a college kid in jail - especially if he or she is joined by a thousand buddies.

We shall overcome.

As to your last point. There is no free market as far the university sector goes. The market, if you could call it that, is hopelessly polluted by titanic amounts of public financing, for one. For another, univerisites are nearly universally bad on liberty issues. Public, private, it doesn't matter. Yes, I'm stereotyping, but university goons are university goons. Anybody who has done serious activism knows this. I've done activism on dozens of campuses across the country and I can say very confidently that there is no free speech. Some speech may be allowed for SOME groups, yet denied for others. That's not free speech.

There is nowhere to run.There is nowhere to hide.

And why should we desire either?

I am not content to allow this to carry on anywhere in this nation any longer - and neither should anyone else. Our colleges are overrun with socialists and big government apologists. The damn plane has crashed into the mountain.

There is only activist battle. There is only (civil disobedience) war to be waged against the goon squads.

There is no surrentder.

There is no peace.

Jonathon Burns's picture