Because the comments he made shortly after September 11 have come to
light, obscene comments in which he vilifies the World Trade Center
victims as "little Eichmanns" and lauds their killers as
"humanitarians," Professor Ward Churchill has resigned as chairman
of the University of Colorado's ethnics studies department. But,
with the support of other faculty, he retains his professorship.
Four members of his department have expressed "unconditional
support" for his "freedom of expression and First Amendment rights."
The Faculty Assembly of the university, though it regards his words
as "controversial, offensive, and odious," defends his freedom to
In opposition, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has called for
Churchill's resignation, saying that taxpayers should not have to
subsidize Churchill's "outrageous and insupportable" views.
Both solutions are incompatible with free speech.
Freedom of speech is an individual's right to express ideas
without coercive interference from the government. Free speech does
protect an individual who voices unpopular ideas from governmental
force, but it does not require that other citizens support him. If
an individual wants others to finance the expression of his ideas,
he must seek their voluntary agreement. To force another person to
support ideas he opposes violates his freedom of speech.
A journalist, for instance, has the freedom to write what he
pleases, but he has no right to demand that Time magazine
publish it. That decision belongs to the owners of Time.
Similarly, a professor has the freedom to teach any view he wishes,
but he has no right to demand that Harvard employ him. That decision
belongs to the private owners of Harvard. Freedom of speech is not
the right of a Ph.D. to have other citizens provide him with a
Yet that in effect is what the professors are demanding.
They maintain that no matter how much the citizens who fund
public universities may disagree with a professor's views, he should
be able to continue to exist on the public dole. Taxpayers are to be
stripped of their right to choose which ideas their money supports.
Why? So that professors can spout whatever theories happen to catch
their fancy--including those that brand productive Americans as
Nazis and Islamic killers as liberators--without the burden of
having to seek the voluntary consent of those forced to sponsor
Under the guise of defending free speech, therefore, the
professors are actually advocating its destruction.
But it is no solution for the government to put pressure (or
worse) on public universities whenever a professor teaches ideas
opposed to the views of a majority of taxpayers. The moment the
government becomes arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on
campus, the moment speech becomes subject to majority vote,
What then is the answer? Privatize the universities.
The truth is that public education as such is antithetical to
free speech. Whether leftists are forced to pay taxes to fund
universities from which their academic spokesmen are barred (as Gov.
Owens' solution requires), or non-leftists are forced to pay taxes
to fund professors who condemn America as a terrorist nation,
someone loses the right to choose which ideas his money supports.
By its nature, a public university must make decisions about what
to include in and to exclude from its curriculum. Of necessity,
therefore, some citizens will object to what is being taught in its
classrooms. But they are nevertheless forced to finance the
communication of those ideas.
To safeguard the right to freedom of speech, the right to private
property must be safeguarded. Only private universities can protect
free speech. The owners of a university could then hire the faculty
they endorsed, while others could refuse to fund the university if
they disagreed with its teachings.
However, since privatization would threaten the left's grip on
the universities--as well as any professor who enjoys the unearned
privilege of spewing out ideas without worrying about the need to
finance their expression--many professors vehemently oppose this
solution. In the name of free speech, they denounce as "tyranny of
the almighty dollar" the sole means of preserving free speech.
But we must not be fooled by this cry from the professors about
their freedom of speech. Freedom is precisely what they don't
advocate. We are right in objecting to being forced to fund their
ideas, loathsome or otherwise. The only solution, however, is a free
market in education.
Onkar Ghate, Ph.D. in philosophy, is a senior fellow at
the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the
ideas of Ayn Rand--best-selling author of
Atlas Shrugged and
The Fountainhead and originator of the
philosophy she called "Objectivism."