MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Conspiring to stifle free speech is a crime.

Whether or not Berkeley loses its federal funding over the Milo riots (and it won’t), I think it’s time for action to address this double standard. First, state and local law enforcement agencies need to target violent rioters who seek to silence speakers. It is a felony under federal civil rights law to conspire to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights, among which is free speech. In addition, many states have laws (generally called Klan laws) that punish people who engage in mob violence or intimidation while masked. These should be applied as well.

Second, perhaps it’s time to have a Title IX-style law banning discrimination according to political viewpoints on campus. Many states (including California) already have laws banning discrimination in hiring and firing based on political viewpoints. Perhaps we need a federal civil rights law providing that colleges that receive federal funds (which is pretty much all of them) can lose those funds if they discriminate against students because of their political views.

Some colleges may complain that this is federal interference in their internal affairs, but given the limited resistance they’ve mounted to intrusive Title IX regulations, it will be hard to take such complaints seriously. America’s colleges and universities have a free speech problem. It’s appropriate for the federal government to take action to protect the civil rights of those affected.

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