The Crossing of the Academic Rubicon
By Michael Medina
During the High Middle Ages, the signing of the Authentica Habita marked the
beginnings of Academic Freedom as is now known in the Western World. Those scholars in
1155, whether they knew it or not, would be initiating a millennium-long struggle between those
who wished to pursue studious goals, and those of the powers that be in the Church or State who
wished to stifle them. By the 1950s, Academia had come a long way. Papal Bulls had been
replaced with University Charters, and Bologna’s status as the world’s peak University had been
filled by those at Oxbridge or Harvard. However, what hadn’t changed was the continuing
propagation of ideas against Academic Freedom and Individualism, and the censorship of those
who would speak out against such ideas. Just as the Church had censored Scholars in the 1150s,
the University Staff and Administrations had continued their legacy into the 1950s. Thankfully,
as always, some people were willing to speak out. William F. Buckley, long before the founding
of the Y.A.F, published God and Man at Yale, a scathing critique of the culture of indoctrination
and propagation of collectivism at Yale University. Buckley’s work was a major success, but he
could not then have foreseen the changes that would come in how Censorship would function.
The student protests of the 1960s rocked the Western World, and in America, especially in
places such as the University of California at Berkeley, a movement for “Free Speech” took the
campus by storm, and radically reshaped the American University System as we know it.
Unfortunately, these movements, ironically intended to protect free speech, ended up serving as
the impetus for its repression. The notion of Academic Freedom since the 1960s has been
hijacked by members of the then “New Left”, who now make up the administrations, staff lists,
and even student unions of America’s Colleges and Universities. Their adherence to the doctrines
of Critical Theory, Marxist Philosophy, and dogmatic enforcement of Social Justice has since the
later part of the 20th Century, and especially into the 21st Century become the single greatest
force against Academic Freedom in the Western World, suppressing ideas they disagree with at
any opportunity.
To find examples of such suppression, one only has to look to recent events. From the
treatment of Prof. Bret Weinstein by the Students and Administration alike at Evergreen State
College, where mobs of racial collectivists forced a school admin to kowtow to their radical
harassment of a Professor simply for refusing to take part in an event in his view counter
productive to the inclusion and equality it claims to represent, to the riot “protests” at UC
Berkeley in 2017, where the situation surrounding a speech by right wing speaker Milo
Yiannopoulos became so volatile that masses of Anarcho-Communist thugs smashed, looted,
and violently assaulted the audience members and their own campus to “No Platform” the
speakers, to which the University responded by doing just that, cancelling the speech and
surrendering to the mobs, as well as pre-emptively “No Platforming” future speakers, or
charging them exuberant security fees just so they wouldn’t be assaulted by the University’s own
students (in the cases of Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro, respectively). However, these injustices
are not committed solely against the Staff or Guests of an institution. The students of Western
Universities themselves often are subject to the greatest amount of censorship and repression by
University Student Groups and Administrations. In the case of the University of Cincinnati
Y.A.L, students and organizations were confined to a “Free Speech Zone” and given a potential
penalty of police action if they left it, a situation all too common at American Universities. Based
on these examples, it is evident that the concept of Academic Freedom in the West, and the idea
that an individual should be able to express their own ideas without fear itself, are in serious
peril.
The reason I present the information above, both historical and current, is to serve as a
warning to any and all people who believe in the Classical Liberal ideas of free thought and
expression, for these ideas are currently under attack from all sides. As documented by F.I.R.E,
Campus Reform, and other organizations, the attacks on Free Speech and Academic Freedom by
all facets of a University Staff, Admin, and Students, are only increasing, and with major News
outlets such as NBC publishing pieces entitled “Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for
regulating Hate Speech in America.”, it is evident that we as a society are reaching a crossroads.
If the mainstream opinion ever stands against the ideas of Free Speech and Expression that our
Nation was founded on, then we will have crossed an “Academic Rubicon” of sorts, a point of no
return from which any hope of freedom is forever extinguished. In the current political climate,
the court of public opinion matters more than any government action or legislative decision,
which is why we must act fast to defend Academic Freedom and Free Speech before it is too
late. Thankfully, there are those willing to stand up for what is right. People of all persuasions,
left, right, and center, are beginning to speak out against the injustices committed against
freedom on College Campuses. From Conservative organizations such as the Y.A.L and FIRE to
Liberal minded groups and people such as Alan Dershowitz, Carl Benjamin, and the ACLU,
people are not only speaking out but are winning victories for Free Speech, as Wilfrid Laurier
University’s exoneration of Lindsay Shepherd and Chris Morbitzer’s Lawsuit in Cincinnati
proudly demonstrated during the past few years.
In Conclusion, The Academic Rubicon has not yet been crossed, but the danger is still
there. The people of the Western World, left and right, must act out, just as those Scholars in
Bologna did in 1155, to defend the principles of Academic Freedom, and show the world at
large that we will not be the Pompey to Freedom’s Rome.
Word Count: 1000
Sources:
https://www.thefire.org/canadian-university-responds-commendably-to-free-speech-controversyprovides-example-for-u-s-institutions/

Berkeley sued over Ann Coulter cancellation

Updated Statement on Violent Protest at University of California, Berkeley


/
https://www.thefire.org/breaking-uc-berkeley-will-host-ben-shapiro-event-pay-fees-after-college
-republicans-accuse-university-of-censorship/
https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Cost-of-Free-Speech-at-UC-Berkeley-is-Estimated-600
000-to-Deal-With-Protests-as-Ben-Shapiro-Speaks-444690753.html
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/first-amendment-too-broad-case-regulating-hate-speech
-america-ncna832246
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW5rdoqtTiQ (Carl Benjamin “Sargon Of Akkad” arguing
in favor of Academic Freedom in the wake of the Wilfrid Laurier incident).
https://www.aclu.org/other/speech-campus
http://www.businessinsider.com/alan-dershowitz-thinks-student-protesters-dont-want-true-divers
ity-in-colleges-2015-11

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Yale 2.0 at Evergreen State College?


Buckley, William F. God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”. Gateway
Editions, 2002.
Foundation For Individual Rights In Education. Don’t Cage My Speech! A Student Schools His
College. Youtube.com, TheFIREorg, 12 Sept. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FU6ePK9KCk.