Wed Apr 19, 6:56 AM ET
Oliver Wendell Holmes: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate."
Karen Murdock is an adjunct professor of geography and earth science at Century College, a two-year community college in White Bear Lake, Minn.
She often posts news articles and blank comment sheets on a faculty bulletin board that she says she hopes students read and argue about - and thereby think beyond White Bear Lake into the world.
In February, she posted an array of the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that offended not only Muslim students but also college administrators. Murdock's exercise of free speech was eventually silenced, yet her cause echoes well beyond White Bear Lake.
While the most embattled cartoons in the history of that genre have receded from the front pages, the fallout lives on. Just last week, the animated and often-controversial South Park television show took on the issue and was rebuffed when its creators tried to depict the prophet in a scene.
Instead, a black screen appeared with the words, "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."
It's more of the same in academia. New York University, for example, states that it is "committed to maintaining an environment where open, vigorous debate and speech can occur." But late last month, the Objectivist Club, a student group that supports the philosophy of Ayn Rand, discovered that the NYU policy is more situational than firm.
The club wanted to have a panel discussion, "Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons," but after protests from Muslim groups, the NYU administration insisted that the controversy could be discussed without showing the cartoons. When the club disagreed, NYU then imposed such limiting conditions on the club - including who could attend the discussion - that the club finally "chose" not to show them. ("Chose" is the administration's interpretation of the decision.)