November 25, 2019
Eric Rasmussen is a professor of Economics at Indiana University. He has argued that gay men should not be teachers, has referred to women as “the weaker sex,” and has said that colleges have lower standards for accepting black students than white students. The University’s provost, Lauren Robel, called his statements, racist, sexist and homophobic, “vile and stupid,” and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”
You know what else she did?
Which is exactly what she should have done.
Regular readers of this blog know that I adhere as close to First Amendment absolutism as one can likely get. It was a radical idea then, and in most quarters it remains a radical idea now, this notion that your speech can be offensive, insensitive, creepy and repulsive, and that the government cannot sanction you for that in any way. Recently, college students in particular have gotten it into their heads that speech that they find offensive (typically, though not exclusively, coming from the bombastic political right) should be banished, at least from campus if not from the political conversation altogether.
And that’s what makes the University’s inaction on Prof. Rasmussen so refreshing. As Provost Robel also wrote, “The First Amendment is strong medicine, and works both ways.”