A kind word for Thom McAn, female equality in Michigan, Ford Foundationism, and other matters. THE SPEECH SUPPRESSION MOVEMENT

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Hey, remember the Free Speech Movement? That was the great crusade at Berkeley in 1964 -- the New Left uprising that initiated the great student revolution of the Sixties. It seems hard to credit the fact today, but for a while there the protesters were actually demanding freedom of speech. Which is all somewhat ironic, since a quarter-century later, the lineal descendants of the FSM have organized a vast and stunningly successful campaign for speech suppression on the country's campuses. To be sure, free speech was not exactly the real agenda back there in 1964. The University of California at Berkeley arguably offered more freedom of expression than any institution in the whole wide world when the tumult began. The real point of the 1964 revolution was not free speech but confrontation with authority. When officials of the University of California at Berkeley agreed to make the campus available for absolutely any kind of lawful demonstration, the FSM topped them by also demanding the right to conduct unlawful demonstrations. Several months later, some of the protesters went into what has been called the ''obscenitarian'' phase of the revolution, with speeches and placards consisting mostly of naughty words. Theorists of the Filthy Speech Movement held that their unending recitation would demonstrate that there could be absolutely no restrictions on human utterances. The present movement against utterances has received much less attention than the FSM got a quarter-century ago, possibly because Joan Baez is not onstage singing for it. Theorists of the present movement make the highly unoriginal point that free speech is bad because it can enable speakers to express bad thoughts. Typical was the Stanford senior who recently got op-ed space in the New York Times to argue that unlimited free speech permits defamation of certain groups, which ''is not permissible.'' The speech suppression movement appears to be in full flower all over the country, invariably promoted by student activists who are characteristically caved in to by craven administrators. The University of Michigan recently issued a document lumpily labeled ''What Students Should Know About Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment in the University Environment.'' The document says that the university ''respects the fundamental right of free speech'' but warns that those guilty of discriminatory harassment will be subject to penalties up to and including suspension. The document gives this example of prohibited behavior: ''A male student makes remarks in class like, 'Women just aren't as good in this field as men.' '' (We are indebted to the philosopher Sidney Hook for the example, and also for his question: What if it's true?) Dartmouth, Northwestern, and California State University have < featured episodes in which conservative student newspapers were judged to have violated the canons of the campus code by their various attacks on affirmative action. The University of Vermont bailed out of a row with minority student protesters last year by signing a 16-point agreement specifying punitive sanctions against anyone who ''insinuates racist remarks or actions.'' A rule soon to be voted on at Stanford could mean expulsion for those who ''pejoratively characterize'' others based on race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical handicap. Princeton has considered but not (yet) adopted an honor code calling upon students to report others who make cracks and tell jokes about race, religion, or sexual preference. It is a tough time for human utterances.