Last month the Ayn Rand Institute and the UCLA School of Law chapter of the Federalist Society organized an event “Is Free Speech Under Attack?.
Eugene Volokh tells us that the “event was quite successful — I’m told that about 140 students attended — and generally went off well. There was no disruption of the event itself (which ought to go without saying, but unfortunately doesn’t always, these days)”
Before the event, though, the Institute had set up a book display on a table in the hallway and offered the books for sale. There were four books, including “Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond,” by the Institute’s Onkar Ghate and Elan Journo…
Some students disapproved of the book and started arguing with the Institute people. And then a law school administrator demanded that the Institute remove the book, apparently on the grounds that it was “inflammatory.” That, I think, was clearly wrong, and indeed a violation of the First Amendment. Public universities can’t bar groups — student groups or others — from displaying books on the grounds that the viewpoints are “inflammatory.”
Fortunately, the incident ended up with a happy ending. Writes Volokh:
I’m glad to say that the dean has written to the Ayn Rand Institute “to extend my [i.e., the Dean’s] apologies” and acknowledged that the administrator’s action was “not in keeping with UCLA Law’s — or my — vigorous commitment to support free speech and respectful debate.” “It also failed to adhere to our commitment that university policies be applied in a content-neutral manner.” And the dean stressed that the school was taking steps “to prevent such occurrences,” by beefing up training and procedures. I know the dean pretty well, and I think she’s quite sincere about this.
Three Cheers to the Dean of UCLA School of Law for their principled defense of freedom of speech.
Those interested in reading the censored book can find a copy here: Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond.