The meanings of "free speech" and "fascism" are apparently unclear to some University of Oregon students who shut down a speech by UO President Michael Schill earlier this month.
The need to take a firm and public stand against such assaults by punishing the perpetrators is apparently unclear to the university leadership.
In supposed defense of free speech, the students used a megaphone to shout down the president and take over the stage, complaining about tuition increases, indigenous rights and minority student safety, according to the student newspaper. One speaker said the protest was prompted by fascism and neo-Nazis who have made the campus unsafe for students.
University officials vacated the stage and posted a pre-recorded video of the speech.
Writing an op-ed in Monday's New York Times, Schill laid out the ironies, most importantly that in preventing others' speech, the protesters were defeating the principle they claimed to be asserting. Also, that their protest against fascism was itself a form of fascism, which he described as a "smothering of dissent."
But Schill didn't mention any steps by the university to take control, to protect the rest of the campus from these misguided students.
The university needs to take a public stand against this kind of protest, making it clear that it will not tolerate students physically taking over an event and preventing anyone, be it a student, a visitor or the university's president, from expressing themselves. The community needs to know what steps were taken to punish such unacceptable conduct.