Insight Article By Richard Miniter January 24, 1994
Summary: In the mid-1980s, collegians suddenly had to worry about being “politically correct:’ Since then, this ideal has wrapped its tentacles around campus debate, smothering free speech in the name of sensitivity. Now someone’s fighting back.
In 1991, Rep. Henry Hyde, an IlÂlinois Republican, sponsored legÂislation that would have made it easier for students at both public and private colleges to sue over First Amendment issues. The bill was inÂtended to help students who felt their right to free speech had been stifled by “PC” crusaders – liberal activists who have managed to make “political correctness” the most pressing issue on American campuses. But Hyde could find only 25 cosponsors and the bill languished. The “PC backlash” went nowhere.
Indeed, since the PC wars began in the mid-1980s with skirmishes on the canon – should Plato or Sappho be required reading – college adÂministrators have become hypersenÂsitive to the needs of women and miÂnorities. Perhaps as a consequence, arguments over what should be taught in the classroom have given way to acrimonious debate on civility – how to make students get along on campus.
Pressured by vocal groups espousÂing multiculturalism, both public and private universities have adopted speech codes directed at students and faculty. Intended at first to curÂtail incidents of “hate speech;’ usuÂally racial slurs, such codes have been extended to regulate all aspects of campus life – students have been asked to remove Confederate flags from their dorm rooms and forbidden from talking with outside journalists without permission.
Howard takes on speech codes.