Vanderbilt professor of law and political science Carol Swain published an op-ed in The Tennessean on Jan. 15 entitled “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam." The piece was a response to the Jan. 7 attack by gunmen on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The magazine had previously published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. that offended Muslims.
In her article, Swain wrote that “Islam is not like other religions in the United States, that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration.”
In response to Dr. Swain’s editorial, Farishtay Yamin, a Muslim student at Vanderbilt, set up a an event on Facebook for a “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech Published in the Tennessean.” She said recent political events have made Muslims in the West feel “scared and unwelcome” and expressed hope that the protest could demonstrate that “Vanderbilt students are committed to making this university a welcoming and safe place for everyone.” (link)
With 60 degree whether, yesterday was a nice day for a protest. The Tennessean and other media covered the event. Channel 5 said "hundreds of students" joined the protest. Some faculty members joined in the protest as well. For a YouTube video of a speech given by a professor who took part in the protest, follow this link.
There was a counter protest led by Victoria Jackson, former Saturday Night Live cast member, who held a sign saying, "Ban Sharia." It is unfortunate that the face of the opposition to the Vanderbilt anti-free speech rally was that of Victoria Jackson with a sign that implies their is a need to "ban Sharia." Students at the rally showed their contempt for views contrary to their own by turning their back on Jackson and cutting off her microphone. You can read Jackson's account of the protest and see pictures at this link. Carol Swain was not present for the protest.
Swain has agreed to debate those who took issue with her editorial. The Vanderbilt Hustler quotes her as saying, "Although I am on sabbatical this semester, I would be interested in facilitating a balanced debate on the topic, if the students can adhere to ground rules about civility and open dialogue."
Labeling speech with which they disagree as "hate speech" and banning it, shouting down opposing views, and forcing universities to disinvited those with a view counter to the politically correct liberal view of the day is a common tactic of the left. While teacher tenure at Universities often protects bad teachers, without teacher tenure, Dr. Swain and others like her could not risk standing up to liberal orthodoxy.
Vanderbilt has a poor record in supporting free speech. A couple years ago, Vanderbilt kicked off campus those Christian organization that were the wrong kind of Christians. Any organization allowed to function on campus could not discriminate on the basis of religion. So, a Christian organization could not even have a requirement that their members have certain believes. In the name of tolerance and acceptance, Vanderbilt has show intolerance and contempt for freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and free speech.
Writing on her Facebook page today, Carol Swain said, "I have been teaching and writing for 26 years, but yesterday was the first time a group of students and colleagues found me intolerable." She also wrote, "Why are today's university students so fragile they need counseling and affirmation whenever they hear something that makes them uncomfortable? Learning how to deal with your emotions is part of growing up."