Arizona has allies in the push to protect speech

Phil Boas

Opinion Arizona Republic

It was no accident that roughly five years ago a political conservative, Karrin Taylor Robson – then a member of the Arizona Board of Regents – proposed and created the annual Regents Cup competition to promote free speech on the campuses of Arizona’s three state universities.

Conservatives were the early targets of unwritten speech codes on U.S. campuses that could cost instructors their university positions.

Karrin Taylor Robson

They were the professors enduring public shaming on social media. They were the speakers hounded and driven off campuses by student mobs.

A “New McCarthyism” had taken over academia, said former Harvard President and U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in August 2022.

“It is a profound threat to American universities,” he told Bari Weiss and her Free Press.

The irony is that the New McCarthyism was inspired by the scholars who loathed the Old McCarthyism, a bygone movement that thought it saw communist insurgencies in every crease of government, Hollywood and the universities.

The new McCarthyism was born of radical identity politics cultivated in the university social sciences over decades and placing the rights of historically marginalized groups – women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians – in conflict with bedrock principles of free expression.

As those groups rightfully pushed for greater acceptance and influence, the most extreme among them condemned legitimate criticism of their movements as “sexism,” “racism,” “homophobia” and “transphobia.”

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May 2023