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Mind your manners: Universities, students need to start facing unpleasant realities

Oh, California, wherefore art thou California, the California of old, the California of civility and understatement and of tranquility and openness? Leave it to the Golden State’s University of California (Berkeley campus) to resuscitate the “Free Speech Movement” of 1964-65, but this time without the free speech.

It seems that that campus’ undergrads, imported rabble-rousers and quite a few professors were offended by the very idea that an opposing voice was attempting to penetrate their PC and safe-space protected little bubble the other evening. So, as typical à gauche anarchists generally do, they created havoc and destroyed public property to protest the scheduled speech of one Milo Yiannopoulos, a Greek-born British journalist who happens to write for a right-of-center website, Breitbart News. Of note is the fact that Yiannopoulos’ speech was sold out and, with very short notice, he was able to help the organizers raise the necessary funds for extra security to protect himself and the audience. A similar situation was largely averted here in Albuquerque nearly two weeks ago as the acting president of the University of New Mexico, Chaouki Abdallah, quite correctly waived the extra security costs for Yiannopoulos’ speech at the Student Union Building. It would appear that “our” snowflakes have a slower melting point than UC Berkeley’s, and while there were protests here, they were not as destructive and dangerous as those of our Californian friends.

It seems that we all have now entered “the year of living dangerously” where ski masks, Molotov cocktails and baseball bats have replaced the slide rules, skateboards and backpacks of our university students. Goodness knows many students have a right to be angry. Some have five-figure student loans and no jobs for them when they leave the safe space womb of the halls of ivy. Many will leave with degrees in obscure and commercially undesirable subjects that only qualify them for another bite of the university “apple” – a master’s program. With that to look forward to, I can understand their frustration, but taking to the barricades to bite the hand that feeds them is not a very productive use of their free time.

I suppose they’re also angry that they have four years of conservative political policies to endure, spearheaded by a president that they despise, whose party ran the table and now is rolling back all the social “gains” that were made during the cool guy’s presidency. If they’re honest with themselves, maybe they’ll admit that they don’t have a lot of personal experience to fall back on when it comes to criticizing successful people for their success. It’s always much easier to say that “they didn’t build that,” that their wealth was unfairly earned, and that successful people should be embarrassed that they have money. Shame on them. They should be giving it all away to the truly needy … like college students.

We had all better batten down the hatches as we’re in for a rocky ride as hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Democrats, ex-Bernie Sanders supporters, Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street members, along with angry hard-core feminists, join forces with student activists to vocally – and with occasional violence – push back hard at the new administration’s conservative policies. Our First Amendment will be used as both a shield and punching bag by both sides in the coming years as we figure out how to tackle protests against non-PC speech and the protestors that would attempt to stifle its free exercise.

There’s no question that university administrators will play a decisive role in allowing or disallowing future speakers their time at the podium. A different challenge awaits campus police and local police forces as they attempt to keep order.

Some key questions must be asked before future demonstrations get out of hand, the most important of which is, “How much latitude will university leaders allow their student bodies before they call in the uniformed forces to quell protests that have the potential to escalate to the point of violence or destruction of property?”

They had better have a plan, because I can guarantee you that the protestors do.

Stephan Helgesen is an author and political strategist. He has written over 600 articles and six books on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at