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ISSUE 121 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/25/2008

Censorship addressed

By Aaron Rozanski
Associate Editor

Friday, April 25, 2008

In defense of academic free speech, Katherine Kersten and Roger Magnuson joined the College Republicans and interested students Thursday night for their talk entitled "Educational Free Speech" while enjoying root-beer floats.

Roger Magnuson, a conservative attorney and Head of the National Strategic Litigation Group and Partner in the Trial group, began the talk and related the atmosphere at many universities to Eastern Europe at the height of its experiments with communism.

"Anyone with a good idea must be ingenious in order to smuggle it into the classroom," he stated. "It is important to constantly be welcoming and offering new ideas."

Having to sneak copies of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" and Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom," Magnuson is aware of the sensitivity surrounding certain ideas.

He spoke of the need of students to "smuggle" in ideas that might violate or question the speech-codes often found in mission statements and codes of conduct at most modern universities.

"These experiences are akin to smuggling contraband ideas into such orthodox institutions as the modern university," Magnuson opined. "Universities have become a rather unfriendly place for the free exchange of ideas, and we must breathe free speech into these academies."

Speech-codes and policy positions on diversity and harassment all contribute to the stagnation of ideas that we are experiencing in universities around the nation.

Magnuson frequently takes cases regarding First Amendment litigation and class actions, and he highlighted three different ways to promote the advancement and free exchange of ideas.

"Litigation and the defense of the First Amendment of the Constitution are crucial," he said. "Along with the threat of litigation and ability to shame those who attempt to freeze these ideas, we can create a sort of deus ex machina that protects our freedom of speech."

The second half of the hour was left to Katherine Kersten, a columnist for the Minnesota Star Tribune. She recently received recognition for her criticism of the University of St. Thomas for not allowing American author Star Parker to speak on campus.

As an advocate for the clashing of ideas in pursuit of truth, Kersten is dedicated to making students aware of both sides of the story. She offered examples of many newspapers and organizations around other campuses designed to inform students on conservative issues.

"Intellectual diversity and academic freedom are fundamental aspects of a liberal education," Kersten stated. "It liberalizes you and opens your mind to new ideas in the disinterested pursuit of truth that should be the modern university."

Kersten was adamant in her defense of non-biased course materials and goals. She spoke of many myths that are often announced in modern universities, which are a direct result of the leftist ideology that dominates these institutions.

"Ideological persuasion is taboo in an institution designed to present all sides of the story," stated Kersten. "We need institutionally neutral places where students are not indoctrinated with a certain school of thought."

When faced with such a situation as portrayed here, Kersten was quick to remind students of their rights of academic freedom and right to seek a liberal education.

"The issue of academic free speech is a two-sided coin," Kersten said. "On one side lays the students' freedom to learn and on the other side is the professors' freedom to teach."

For students interested in preserving academic freedom and advocating for the freedom of speech, institutions such as Young America for Freedom, Students for Academic Freedom and the Leadership Institute are all looking for young and determined students with a variety of perspectives.

To get involved with conservative issues on campus, the College Republicans sponsor many activities aimed at promoting civic engagement and political action.

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