“The Act of Silencing a Speaker Is Fundamentally Contrary to the Values of This School”

Fox News (Jessica Chasmar),:

Ilya Shapiro, a constitutional scholar who recently found himself in hot water over a tweet about President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, was shouted down by law students in San Francisco, videos show.

Shapiro joined a discussion Tuesday afternoon about Justice Stephen Breyer’s Supreme Court vacancy at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, but he was interrupted by protesters pounding on desks and chanting “Black lawyers matter.” …

Wednesday morning, UC Hastings wrote to students condemning protesters’ actions and stating that it was against the Code of Conduct.

According to the letter from the school, which Fox News Digital obtained, the school wrote that silencing speakers is against fundamentally the school’s values as an institution of higher education. It is also contrary to its pedagogical mission to train students to be successful in their chosen profession through analysis and argument.

Thank you UC Hastings for your response. I am glad that they have taken disciplinary action against those who violate the code. While shouting down speakers is bad, I don’t believe it should be considered an offense that warrants expulsion. Otherwise, the behavior will only get worse.

Some people claim that heckling constitutes constitutionally protected speech. However, I do not believe that is true (unless schools open up these presentations to everyone). Schools may or might not place viewpoint-neutral limits on speech at these events. Generally, the speakers are limited to speaking for X time and the audience has a chance to pose questions for Y. The speakers then respond. Students at law school are free to organize their own events where they can present their opinions without having them shouted down or materially disrupted by chanting.

Of course, if shouting down is considered acceptable speech, I expect that many people may want to take advantage of it: some anti-abortion activists who oppose pro-abortion-rights speakers, some anti-critical-race-theory activists who oppose critical race theorists, some gun rights activists who oppose advocates of what they see as oppressive and unconstitutional violations of people’s gun rights, and more. I’d rather that none of them get to shout down rival speakers—but if critics of Shapiro were entitled to “silenc[e]He at UC Hastings. The First Amendment viewpoint neutrality rules would dictate that other critics would also be allowed to speak out.