STORRS, Conn. – Conservative columnist Ann Coulter gave up trying to finish a speech at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday night when boos and jeers from the audience became overwhelming.

Coulter cut off the talk after 15 minutes and instead held a half-hour question-and-answer session.

Not that she was crying over it, or anything. “I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am,” she said afterward.

It’s all about the hate. Last April, the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota denounced a speech on the campus by Coulter, calling it hateful. Among the campus groups that protested her at UConn were “Students Against Hate.” Its head, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in “journalism and social welfare,” said, “”We encourage diverse opinion at UConn, but this is blatant hate speech.”

Emily Salsibury, one of the students who helped bring Coulter to the campus for the aborted speech, got it right in a column in the student newspaper, beseeching opponents of Coulter to engage in dialogue, not denigration:

Controversy does not mean hate speech or racism. Coulter has no documented history of hate speech at any of her numerous speaking engagements. Hate speech is speech that is designed to frighten its target or incite violence against them and Coulter is guilty of neither. How, then, could Coulter be accused of violating such restrictions? Furthermore, the university has no official designation of what constitutes hate speech and does not impose any restrictions on its speakers.

To define a speech as hateful or racist simply because you do not agree with the point of view is a lowbrow tactic. It is ironic that some preach tolerance and diversity, but cannot practice it well. We must all learn to deal with dissenting voices, and this is just what Coulter is. Disagreement with a voice should never lead to silencing that voice.

Ah, the modern American college. Where “free speech zones” protect the tender ears of youth from any words too abrasive for their happy minds, and self-appointed political puritans noisily exorcize any demons who enter in from the world beyond.

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