Like a particularly pernicious invasive plant, the rootstock of Donna Shalala’s politically correct speech codes from the late 1980s survive to this day in the Leftist monoculture of higher academe.

Donald Downs, UW-Madison professor of political science, law, and journalism, is leading the Round-Up campaign to kill the last vestige of the pest. His Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights (CAFAR) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education are demanding the Board of Regents, still dominated by Jim Doyle appointees, to rescind Policy 14-6, "The Racist and Other Discriminatory Conduct Policy."

The federal court for Eastern Wisconsin overturned the speech codes as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment in its 1991 UWM Post decision. While the codes themselves were cut down, the Regent policy continues to direct each individual UW campus to adopt a policy addressing racist and discriminatory conduct — with language identical to that language struck down by the courts! Several of the UW campuses—including UW Oshkosh, UW River Falls, and UW Superior—have incorporated that unconstitutional language that prohibits "name-calling, racial slurs, or jokes."

Those speech codes were weaponized by the Hard Left to endanger legitimate political comment. At the ramparts of intolerance were radical sociologists who expounded  something called "critical race theory."

In his book, Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus (2005), Downs explains, "In critical race theory, racism is endemic in liberal capitalist politics and censorship of such expression serves the Marcusean purpose of limiting the influence of regressive positions for 'the privilege and power of the racial power structure’ is wrapped in the rhetoric of politically unpopular speech."

That’s what liberals do, as when students shouted tried to shout down a 2007 college Republican event featuring David Horowitz, in Madison to speak about the mistreatment of women in Middle East dictatorships. (Wouldn’t you think ...?)

"I’ve been called names before," Sarah Mikolajczak recalled for a piece I did for Wisconsin Interest magazine in 2010. The problem "was the death threats and the rape threats." Not from Muslim students but from the liberal-progressive bien pensants. A month later, Chancellor John Wiley sent the 19-year-old college student a $1,300 bill for the police security she required. (It was eventually forgiven.)

"I realized they have to come up with name-calling because they can’t defend their own ideas," Ms. Mikolajczak told me.

For a time in the Fall of 2000, drop boxes were posted around campus to receive the anonymous complaints about classmates or professors for transgressions ranging from crimes to offensive speech. Someone had read their Orwell!

The University of Wisconsin, particularly its flagship campus, remains fertile ground for the new McCarthyites to silence the very sifting and winnowing of ideas for which the university had been renowned.

Incensed that employers might have the same free speech rights as other corporations — say, The Capital Times Inc., or Madison Teachers Inc. — the campus is a hotspot for the "Move to Amend" effort to geld the First Amendment for the first time in its 222-year history. (That pesky Amendment!) Madison is hosting a national confab in August.

If you’re at out-of-work liberal, the UW-Madison will find a paycheck for you. Just ask Louis Butler! A recent hire is Kathleen Falk, who — when last heard from during last year’s recall election— was pledging to hold the entire $64 billion state budget hostage to the public employee unions if voters would elect her governor. (Go to the head of the class!) Quick, name the Republican rewarded with a campus lectern.

"The problem of intellectual diversity remains," Downs told me not that long ago.

Over at the sociology department, the Havens Center is gearing up for the annual Memorial weekend Radfest, where the red freak flag of socialism flies and the sloganeering runs thick as bug spray in Upham Woods near the Dells.

Coming in June the "Working Class Studies Assn." will revisit what it calls "the "Wisconsin Uprising" in downtown Madison "to continue to fight back against this assault ... on our rights and livelihoods."

An exchange of ideas? Just try defending Act 10, Koch-slicker. I can hear the vuvuzelas and drum circles already.

Read Downs’ letter, signed by 12 faculty members — seven of them (unfortunately) emeritus. The letter from UW-Stout prof Timothy Sheill and five others is here.


Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years working for daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times  if you can believe it. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.