Nina Burleigh writes:

During his 18 years as president of Lebanon Valley College during the middle of the past century, Clyde Lynch led the tiny Pennsylvania liberal arts institution through the tribulations of the Great Depression and World War II, then raised $550,000 to build a new gymnasium before he died in 1950. In gratitude, college trustees named that new building after him.

Neither Lynch nor those trustees could have predicted there would come a day when students would demand that his name be stripped from the Lynch Memorial Hall because the word lynchhas “racial overtones.” But that day did come.

When playwright Eve Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues, which premiered in 1996 and has been performed thousands of times by actors, celebrities and college students, she probably did not foresee a day when a performance of her feminist agitprop would be canceled because it was offensive to “women without vaginas.” And yet that day did come—at Mount Holyoke, one of the nation’s premier women’s colleges.

Graduates of the Class of 2016 are leaving behind campuses that have become petri dishes of extreme political correctness and heading out into a world without trigger warnings…

Their degrees look the same as ever, but in recent years the programs of study behind them have been altered to reflect the new sensitivities. …

More than half of America’s colleges and universities now have restrictive speech codes. And, according to a censorship watchdog group, 217 American colleges and universities—including some of the most prestigious—have speech codes that “unambiguously impinge upon free speech.”

Judges have interpreted the First Amendment broadly, giving Americans some of the most expansive rights of speech in the world. But over the past two decades, and especially the past few years, American college administrators and many students have sought to confine speech to special zones and agitated for restrictions on language in classrooms as well. To protect undergrads from the discomfort of having to hear disagreeable ideas and opinions, administrators and students—and the U.S. Department of Education—have been reframing speech as “verbal conduct” that potentially violates the civil rights of minorities and women. …

It’s been nearly 400 years since English writer John Milton wrote “Areopagitica,” an argument against censorship that laid the groundwork for American and British guarantees of free speech. His theme was that ideas are strengthened, not weakened, by confrontation and challenge.

Res ipsa loquitur.