Students of University of North Carolina-Wilmington Professor Mike Adams can check their outrage at Halloween costumes and "micro-aggressions" at the door, but if they want to have real debate on hot-button issues such as race, he'll make time in his criminology class.
The famously outspoken professor, who took his school to court and won after accusing officials of stalling his career because of his conservative beliefs, has watched as campus controversies have erupted at Yale and University of Missouri in recent days. At Yale, an administrator's e-mail that asked students to exercise their First Amendment right and wear a Halloween costume of their choice, even if it offended some set off a firestorm of student protest. And at University of Missouri, students forced the school president to resign for what they saw as foot-dragging on racial issues.
The mistake students are making, according to Adams, is that they are shouting about their indignation instead of talking about their disagreement.
"What you are seeing here is reverse Darwinism," Adams said. "The ones that will survive in this new society are only the ones who are completely protected from offense."
"And if a professor says something that students perceive as biased, that professor should be confronted with words and in debate"
- Mike Adams, a professor of Criminology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington
Adams has for years been an outspoken critic of what he perceives as the lack of free speech at universities. He gained new notoriety in August, when he opened the school year with an epic rant to students, telling them they do not have the "right to be free from being offended."
"You have a right to be offended with regularity," he told the class. "It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don't understand that you are confused and dangerously so."
"It is entirely possible that the main reason why so many of you are confused about free speech is that piece of paper hanging on the wall right over there," Adams continued in the lecture, the text of which went viral. "Please turn your attention to that ridiculous document that is framed and hanging by the door. In fact, take a few minutes to read it before you leave class today. It is our campus speech code. It specifically says that there is a requirement that everyone must only engage in discourse that is “respectful.” That assertion is as ludicrous as it is illegal. I plan to have that thing ripped down from every classroom on campus before I retire.
Adams told FoxNews.com he has his limits when it comes to freedom of speech, but they are the same boundaries enforced by the Supreme Court.
"No slander, no libel, no hardcore pornography," he said. "And if a professor says something that students perceive as biased, that professor should be confronted with words and in debate."
Adams is not alone on his end of the spectrum in what has become a major battle playing out in academia. After viewing a viral video of a Yale student shrieking at Nicholas Christakis, whose wife wrote the e-mail about Halloween costumes, Conor Friedersdorf wrote a column in The Atlantic called "The New Intolerance of Student Activism," complaining that students leave no room for civil disagreement.
"They’re behaving more like Reddit parodies of "social-justice warriors" than coherent activists, and I suspect they will look back on their behavior with chagrin," he wrote.
"Finally, if this doesn’t work then I would simply ask you to get the hell out of the country. The ever-growing thinned-skinned minority you have joined is simply ruining life in this once-great nation. Please move to some place like Cuba where you can enjoy the company of communists and get excellent health care. Just hop on a leaky boat and start paddling your way towards utopia. You will not be missed." - Professor Mike Adams
Students at the Ivy League school staged protests over an e-mail sent from a faculty member who objected to a request from the Intercultural Affairs Committee that students avoid wearing racially insensitive Halloween costumes, such as Native American headgear, turbans or blackface.
"Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?" Erika Christakis, an administrator at the school, wrote in an email to students. "American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition."
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also expressed concern with the way Yale students protested Halloween costumes they deemed culturally insensitive.
"Yale students have every right to express their anger and frustration with Yale faculty," the organization said in a statement on its website. "But FIRE is concerned by yet another unfortunate example of students who demand upsetting opinions be entirely eradicated from the university in the name of fostering “safe spaces” where students are protected from hurt feelings. Practicing free speech does not merely entail the right to protest opinions you object to—it also means acknowledging people’s right to hold those opinions in the first place."
The situation at University of Missouri involves more serious allegations, and has already had more serious consequences, including President Tim Wolfe's resignation. Students began protesting in September when a student leader posted on Facebook about being subjected to racial slurs on campus. Then, a swastika was smeared on a dormitory wall and, weeks later, the school's black student government association wrote an open letter sharing its members’ experiences with racism. Although the school announced mandatory diversity training for students, faculty and staff would begin in January, students said it was not enough. They issued a list of demands, including more mandatory racial awareness training, to be overseen by “students, staff, and faculty of color,” and the removal from office of Wolfe.
Earlier this week, a journalism professor at the school apologized after being caught on video trying to prevent a student journalist from covering campus protests. School officials did send out an e-mail telling students to call the police if they witness "hateful or hurtful" speech.
Adams called that mentality and Wolfe's capitulation was "startling," and does not bode well for academic freedom and the exchange of ideas on campus.
Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.