Editorial: UNM is right to protect all flavors of speech - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: UNM is right to protect all flavors of speech

If there’s a silver lining to the national attention of angry protesters storming a ballroom to shut down a young conservative speaker at the University of New Mexico, it’s how the university has handled it thus far.

Tomi Lahren, invited to speak on campus by a group of conservative students, was met at the student union last week by about 100 protesters who tried to push their way into a ballroom, banging on doors, smashing windows, knocking a hole in a wall, shouting obscenities and pulling a fire alarm.

“They were pushing officers in front of the doors and pushing them out of the way. I mean, attacking them. It started to get very ugly and very violent, very fast,” Lahren told Fox News Digital from her Albuquerque hotel.

UNM, to its credit, issued a statement Friday saying it was investigating the melee and would hold accountable those who broke laws or university policies. UNM also affirmed its commitment to free speech and a marketplace of ideas.

“We are deeply disappointed in the actions of those individuals who intentionally chose to disrupt a scheduled speaker and infringed upon the rights of the speaker and those who attended the event to listen and engage, vandalized University property and unlawfully pulled a fire alarm,” UNM said.

As a state-funded university, and the flagship university at that, UNM has both an ethical and fiduciary responsibility to cast as broad a net as possible for campus discussions. College is supposed to be about exploring new, difficult, even wrong ideas, not establishing a safe-space echo chamber of self-affirming pablum. Civil discourse and protest are also protected speech, but when it devolves to vandalism and police guarding an auditorium to protect a speaker from an angry mob it sends the message minds are closed here.

Lahren wrote afterward the “rabid nerds” get away with such campus behavior “because society has protected their bullsh*t.” UNM can prove her wrong by following through and holding accountable those who damaged property and disrupted the event, while ensuring an inclusive and safe campus for everyone, regardless of political ideology.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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