Jesse Singal in New York Magazine:
One fairly common idea that pops up again and again during the endless national conversation about college campuses, free speech, and political correctness is the notion that certain forms of speech do such psychological harm to students that administrators have an obligation to eradicate them — or, failing that, that students have an obligation to step in and do so themselves (as has happened during recent, high-profile episodes involving Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos, which turned violent).
Such claims of harm — often summed up as “speech is violence” — aren’t typically invoked in response to actual Nazis, or anything like that. Rather, they are used to argue against allowing speakers like Murray and Yiannopoulos — who, for better or worse, do fit in the conservative mainstream — or even significantly more moderate ones like Emily Yoffe, who has expressed skepticism about certain claims pertaining to the prevalence of sexual assault on campus. In one instance students successfully canceled a showing of American Sniper by arguing the film’s ostensible Islamophobia would make “students feel unsafe and unwelcome” — though the screening was later uncanceled.
Now, given the fog of culture war that has descended on this subject and the tendency of opportunistic (mostly) conservative outlets to hype these kinds of events, it isn’t clear how common they actually are — people often forget the polls suggesting that college students, broadly speaking, tend to hold pro-free-speech views. But either way, it is hard to take seriously the idea that an American Sniper showing or an Emily Yoffe appearance, or even a Yiannopoulos talk, is so potentially psychologically harmful that established norms about free expression — which protect both College Republicans and Palestinian students advocating on behalf of their people — should be tossed out the window.