Saturday, December 08, 2012

Freedom of, or in, universities watch

Whither Goes Free Speech at Harvard?

Ivy League Cracks Down as Students Spiral Out of Control

Note the different framings, even though there are speech cases mixed in with the other examples in the second article.

It's not the case that residential colleges and universities face a choice between in loco parentis and internal rulelessness, standardlessness, normlessness.  Universities are associations; associations normally have the right to set domestic rules of conduct.  There are standards of liberty within universities that are different from, and more demanding than, the standards that govern the civil state: "academic freedom" is not the same as constitutional freedom of speech.  But associational freedom means that universities-- like churches, like the Boy Scouts-- have the authority to set rules of membership, and that the norms of constitutional law are not only legally but conceptually somewhat out of place in evaluating them.

And associational freedom is part of freedom.  Those choosing which residential college or university to attend are free to choose one whose domestic rules suit their tastes, values, and norms, from Brigham Young to Notre Dame to Reed.  Internal norms of behavior are an important part of how one collegiate experience differs from another; and it's no violation of liberty to offer the choice of a college life that expects civility and decency in recreational speech, or that limits or prohibits Greek life.

I would also note, though, that lurid stories about alcoholic excesses on college campuses should always be accompanied with an explanation of how the 21-year drinking age encourages concentrated binge drinking.