Pence Blasts 'Noxious' Suppression of Free Speech on College Campuses: 'Wholly Outside the American Tradition'

May 21, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence blasted the "noxious" tide of left-wing intolerance sweeping college campuses during his Notre Dame commencement speech Sunday, calling it "the suppression of freedom of speech" and "wholly outside the American tradition."

Pence praised Notre Dame for welcoming deliberation and allowing visiting speakers, no matter how unpopular, to be allowed to speak their minds in the open. He ripped new campus phenomena like "speech codes" and "safe zones."

"But Notre Dame is an exception, an island in a sea of conformity so far spared from the noxious wave that seems to be rushing over much of academia," he said. "While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness, all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech."

Although Pence did not mention conservatism in his remarks, such practices often create a chilling effect for right-leaning students due to overwhelming left-wing tilts on major college campuses.

Recent examples of intolerance for opposing views have included Middlebury College students violently shutting down a speech by writer Charles Murray, riots at Berkeley over the appearance of alt-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos, and the shutdown of a planned speech by Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna due to her opposition to Black Lives Matter.

These all-too common practices, Pence said, were "destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge, and they are wholly outside the American tradition."

"As you, our youth, are the future, and universities the bellwether of thought and culture, I would submit that the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every American," he said. "This should not and must not be met with silence."

During the speech, some Notre Dame students walked out in a planned protest of Pence's conservative politics.

Pence, the former Governor of Indiana praised Notre Dame as a "vanguard" of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time "sadly when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America."