Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dr. Mike Adams at UNCG

UNC Wilmington criminology professor Mike Adams, a free-speech gadfly to university administrators across the nation, talked at UNCG this evening.

Most of his talk was devoted to stories about the suppression of speech through the use of speech codes on various campuses, and about attempts by administrators to defund or de-recognize Christian groups by enforcing open membership rules on them. The usual tack in these cases, according to Adams, is to draft rules that require such groups to admit non-believers, then to defund them if they balk at this. This did not make much sense to Adams (nor does it to me); Adams likened the tactic to forcing campus Jewish groups to admit Nazis.

Adams is a passionate devotee of free speech. He sees it as his function to increase the "marketplace of ideas" on campuses, and encouraged the College Republicans never to try to suppress anyone's speech on campus: "Add to the campus conversation."

"State Universities are places where people are not supposed to be comfortable -- there is supposed to be debate," he said. "If someone on your campus is engaging in censorship, fight them, even if you are on the same side. Free speech is more important than the status of your group."

But he doesn't think that university administrators, on the whole, are very enthusiastic about it.

"In the 60's, kids were fighting for the right to be treated like adults. In the 70's, they became professors. In the 80's and 90's they became university administrators, and set about instituting speech codes and stifling free speech," he said. "They never really believed in free speech in the first place."

Adams seems to function as a kind of hired gun for Republican students on campuses who have run afoul of speech or membership codes; they call him, and he offers students advice on legal or public relations strategies. He also calls university administrators and asks lots of questions about the constitutionality of their codes. Apparently he's had a lot of success in getting universities to back off.

I was interested to learn that Adams is a former left-wing atheist who voted for Dukakis in '88, worrying only that Dukakis wasn't sufficiently liberal.

About 60 people were present to hear him. Thought the crowd was mostly white, some of Adams' biggest fans in the audience were minorities, and one young lady had rainbow-dyed hair and an impressive spiked dog collar on her neck. I think I was the only member of the faculty or administration there; at least, I didn't see any that I recognized.

Tomorrow night's guest speaker: Cornel West!


Titus said...

Nice to see you out last night, Dr. Wharton! Technically you can count me as "administration", but not really the kind Adams was addressing. I just help kids transfer in; I have nothing to do with speech codes.

This was a good synopsis of what was said, good reporting here. I appreciate you posting the facts like this...'cause that means I can just link to it and provide more "color" reporting in my post.

Joe Killian said...
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Joe Killian said...

I would disagree with the characterization of Mike Adams as "a devotee of free speech" and could personally refute his statement (if it's his) that he encourages College Republicans never to try to suppress anyone's free speech on campus.

I have it from a number of College Republicans that Adams encouraged the group to try to keep Tristan Taormino, the Village Voice sex columnist from coming to campus last year - when the Health Center was sponsoring her and then when I helped organize private funding for the event. He personally called university administrators to protest the school in any way funding it and then her presence when they weren't funding it. Shortly thereafter a letter writing campaign by conservatives opposing Taormino was started when Adams encouraged people to oppose her appearance in a column.

Last year a College Republican told me over beers that Adams advised the CRs to oppose PRIDE funding and PRIDE events in the UNCG SGA, where he thought it would cause less of a PR flap and would be more effective.

When Cornel West was announced at the beginning of the semester a College Republican e-mailed Adams to tell him about it and, according to this person, Adams replied that the CRs should try to oppose any school funding for the event. They wisely chose not to - though I don't know any of them who actually came out to it. (Now seems John Rouse and a few others were there - must have missed them in the crowd of more than 1000)

Adams' record - and even his columns - stand as proof that he's not a free-speech gadfly so much as a conservative speech gadfly. It's been my experience that he fights not for free and equitable speech on college capuses but opposes with all of his ability any speech that deviates from his personal believes and encourages college students and others to do the same while fighting to push speakers and events with a conservative agenda.

His doing this doesn't bother me. His posing as a free-speech advocate does.

David Wharton said...

I wrote about what he said on Thursday, and I can't really speak to the second-hand information you report, Joe.

Joe Killian said...

Just putting that out there. Didn't mean it to sound like an attack. The idea of Adams presenting himself as a free speech advocate while sticking it to people who are really out to increase dialogue and give all sorts of ideas their due in the community just makes me ill.

But if you want some first-hand info on what Adams considers free-speech just go to and go through his columns one by one. You might start with anything he wrote about Tristan Toarmino and ask yourself why someone so committed to the idea of free speech across the political spectrum did everything he could to prevent her talk from taking place, tried to embarass and intimidate the university for having invited her in the first place and went on TV and radio to talk about why he opposed using the same student fees that paid for his second trip last year paying for a speaker with whom he simply disagrees politically.

Anonymous said...

Simple, she was not a "sexual health expert" as UNCG and you continually try to pull off, she is a pornographer and sells sex toys. She should not have been paid by the UNCG health center to come to UNCG, they could have hired a real professional, a doctor who is qualified to teach about the topics they brought her to discuss. Dr. Adams was against the entire ploy of subverting a health discussion into indoctrination of left wing moral values.