Speech Therapy

Ten Years After Ushering In the Era of P.C. Policing, The University of Wisconsin Sets Its Faculty Free

But civil libertarians weren't the only ones to celebrate the decision. Indeed, it's difficult to find anyone who wasn't on the bandwagon the whole time, even those you'd least expect to be there. "The Anti-Defamation League is firmly opposed to campus hate speech codes," says the ADL's Elizabeth Coleman. "We really believe that light is the best disinfectant."

"Speech codes are a fig leaf," agrees ACLU president Nadine Strossen. "They allow university administrations to avoid doing anything substantive to address minority issues on campus."

Yet the celebration party's less fun when your putative enemies are sharing in the festivities. As UW-Madison had once been hailed as a model of political correctness, so now it is being hailed by conservatives as leading the backlash against it. The Faculty Committee for Academic Freedom, for instance, an organization founded by Downs, accepted a $100,000 contribution from the conservative Bradley Foundation. It's an irony that does not escape Jason Shepard. "It did make me uncomfortable to look to my left and right and see people who would give comfort to the killers of Matthew Shepard," he says. Still, he doesn't see the issue as driven by a "backlash" momentum, but by a healthy respect for the Bill of Rights. "Maybe it's just time for us liberals to look at pushing our agenda in a way that doesn't involve squelching ideas we find offensive."

Research assistance: Lou Bardel

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