University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill argues that protesting students who associate universities with fascism are misguided in this article on the Opinion page of The New York Times.
"Fascist regimes rose to power by attacking free speech, threatening violence against those who opposed them, and using fear and the threat of retaliation to intimidate dissenters," he writes. "By contrast, American academia is dedicated to rational discourse, shared governance and the protection of dissent.
"Historically, fascists sought to silence, imprison and even kill university professors and other intellectuals who resisted authoritarian rule," he continues. "So the accusation that American universities somehow shelter or promote fascism is odd and severely misguided."
Schill believes that students are actually protesting "what they see as a blanket protection of free speech that, at its extreme, permits the expression of views by neo-Nazis and white supremacists."
But he warns against the tactic of silencing.
"I am opposed to all these groups stand for, but offensive speech can never be the sole criterion for shutting down a speaker," he writes. "Without the freedom to express ideas, even those that offend, we cannot challenge the status quo nor move society forward."