Nowhere better epitomizes the open debate and free expression that are such cherished parts of American academia - and American life - than the campus quad. So the sight of protesters at the University of Missouri harassing and blocking journalists was startling, to say the least. The incident was especially troubling because a rising tide of student activism, admirable in many respects, seems increasingly infected by a strain of intolerance of dissenting views.
"Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go" was the chant Monday as protesters surrounded and harangued Tim Tai, a student photographer on assignment for ESPN. Tai was trying to chronicle the protests of alleged racism that forced the resignation of two top university officials. "This is the First Amendment that protects your right to stand here and mine. . . . The law protects both of us," said Tai as he tried to reason with the crowd. Incredibly, among those trying to bully Tai were university staff members. As another student videoed the events, an assistant professor of mass media (no, we are not making that up) asked, "Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here."
No one has been able to explain how the media - earlier sought out by protesters wanting to publicize their complaints - became the enemy. But it was clear from the video,which went viral, that at least some students believed that their rights and views should trump the rights and views of others. .
That runs the risk of making universities a place not of learning but of conforming.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
This excerpt was taken from The Washington Post.