Justice Antonin Scalia will be taking a step outside the rarefied realm of Washington, DC legal theory this Thursday to deliver a speech to students at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT on the topic of free speech. Given the way those students are reacting, he may find they need it more than he realizes. Today, just two days before Scalia's arrival, a coalition of students authored no less than four different letters to the school paper, the Wesleyan Argus, calling for Scalia to be silenced by protesters and/or blocked from speaking on-campus.
The headlines alone speak volumes. One reads, "Wesleyan Deserves Better Than Scalia." Another reads, "The Moral Duty of Opposing Scalia's Corruption." Yet another reads, "Asserting the Norm: Chief (sic) Justice Antonin Scalia." And perhaps the crowning jewel reads, "The Value of Protesting, Disrupting and/or Silencing Antonin Scalia."
Here are some of the "highlights" of the four articles, with emphasis added. From "Wesleyan Deserves Better Than Scalia":
It is ridiculous for Wesleyan to bring Antonin Scalia to speak at a lecture devoted to freedom of speech. He doesn’t believe that prisoners captured as part of the “War on Terror” have the right to legal representation. He supports physical torture as an interrogation tactic. He is openly committed to diminishing reproductive health rights. I can only wonder whose freedom of expression he is interested in protecting through his work with the Supreme Court. Those who can become unintentionally pregnant, those who are disempowered by colonialist political and military actions, and those who find themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers are not being served.[...]
To those who have tickets: give him hell. President Roth says he hopes this will be an educational opportunity, so it’s up to you to give Scalia the opportunity to learn something about Wesleyan, and about freedom of expression.
From "The Moral Duty of Opposing Scalia's Corruption":
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia not only has the distinction of using his position to defend anti-sodomy laws, to aid in the unleashing of a torrent of corporate money onto our elections, to argue in favor of the execution of minors, and to appoint (sic) George Bush as President, he has also been the focus of three corruption scandals in the past decade. Antonin Scalia is not merely a powerful player in the United States government with whom many members of the Wesleyan community disagree--he is a powerful player in the United States government who uses the privilege of his position to his own (and his political compatriots’) advantage, in an ethically and legally questionable manner that harms what small amount of democratic integrity the government might claim.[...]
Scalia has excelled at pushing the boundaries of what is legally and ethically acceptable, without obviously going beyond them. The amount of room he has to do this raises some broader questions about the system in which he operates. Why do the existing laws allow Justice Scalia to have so much ethical wiggle room? Why have there not been consequences for these ethical indiscretions? More broadly, and more importantly, why as a society do we choose to give any one person so much power that wining and dining them threatens the democratic integrity of our system of governance as a whole?
From "Asserting the Norm: Chief (sic) Justice Antonin Scalia":
Justice Antonin Scalia represents some of the worst in institutional oppression America has to offer. While giving a talk at the Woodrow Wilson International School for Scholars, he defines his analytical framework of originalism: “Our manner of interpreting the Constitution is to begin with the text, and to give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people."[...]
The people in this context are of course white, property-owning males and not the nation as a whole. In embracing and romanticizing the founding of the United States, Justice Scalia asserts the white property-owning male as the authoritative norm. This overarching power marginalizes all others who do not fit this category as having a tainted or biased opinion.[...]
[Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing] was a reminder that opinions can never be completely objective or true. In striving for original meaning in the constitution, Justice Scalia operates through an unacknowledged lens of whiteness and power that is accepted as original and unbiased. He also conjures an American and deeply historical vision of white male domination, and suffering on behalf of all others.
From "The Value of Protesting, Disrupting and/or Silencing Antonin Scalia":
I find it extremely disappointing that so many students on this campus have such an uncritical attitude towards illegitimate authority structures like the Supreme Court and are even more militant against any form of organized, disruptive dissent expressed towards these structures. [...]
Liberal students say that there is an inherent value in hearing other people’s perspectives in a democracy. I agree, but I already know Scalia’s perspective and so do most people who will be at the lecture - you can read about it on Wikipedia or watch him on Youtube giving what will likely be a basically similar speech as the one he will give to us. Scalia’s perspective is well established in the discourses of the media and in the communities and homes that many of us students come from. I and other students have heard enough white supremacist capitalist patriarchy dressed up in rational discourse and we think that these ideas need to be challenged openly. [...]
With that said, I urge you to abandon your wimpy liberal notions of decorum and propriety as they only serve to validate existing authoritarian hierarchies that are responsible daily for the (living) deaths of marginalized peoples. Let’s give Scalia a real Wesleyan Welcome and remind him that his power is illegitimate and ultimately subject to the rage of the people his power subordinates.
Nor are these the only letters these students have written. Another, from yesterday, is titled "Occupy Scalia, Decolonize Wesleyan," and includes the following lines:
If you consider yourself committed to the abolition of institutionalized violence, and for the realization of true justice from below, we implore you to express your dissent on the day of Scalia’s arrival, in whatever way is best for you and your community (chalking, protesting, organizing counter-events, hosting critical discussions, organizing justice-oriented events, etc.). In essence, we call on all people of conscience to “Occupy Scalia.”[...]
Even Wesleyan’s claim to “Diversity University”—which has been shamefully distorted to justify Scalia’s presence and to erase from view his violent impacts by our dear President Roth—carries a white supremacist attitude, since so many diversity initiatives are mainly implemented to benefit the expanded learning environment of the white, heterosexual, wealthy male crowd for whom this institution was built.
These students do not necessarily speak for the whole student body, however. One student who asked not to be named in this article told the Blaze that he hoped Scalia would bring a security detail, as "some f--kers are bound to engage in the barbarism they preach." Moreover, when Scalia's visit was first announced last year, the response was largely positive, according to an article in the same paper.
Wesleyan, despite holding a liberal reputation widely, has mostly stayed out of the national spotlight since then-Senator Obama delivered its commencement address in 2008. However, Andrew Breitbart twice singledout Wesleyan for criticism as one of the fonts of liberal sentiment in the media. In his speech to CPAC this year, Breitbart said:
And that is who’s in the White House. And that’s . . . who would squelch your free speech just as easily as they do at Harvard, Vassar, Yale, Wesleyan—they’re a bunch of totalitarian freaks! And they pal around with our friends in the mainstream media.”
Similarly, in February of 2010, Breitbart said this:
Bad, racist, homophobic—all those buzzwords that they learned in their freshman orientation class at Wesleyan—are used as weapons to try to destroy you and intimidate you to not speak up.
So can the "totalitarian freaks" shut Scalia up? Weigh in below.
(Full disclosure: This author is a 2010 graduate of Wesleyan University)