I fear that Eugene may have misunderstood some of the underlying facts surrounding the Dartmouth episode he discusses. As a result, he seems to have misunderstood the concern about intimidation. Were the claim simply that there was an effort by an administrator, even a vigorous effort, to change a student's mind on a political debate than Eugene plainly would be correct. But the claim by the young man here is not merely that "He criticized my views and said my political views are wrong..." but a specific concern of intimidation that the student should cease his activities in opposition to the proposed new Dartmouth alumni constitution or the administrator would make public or otherwise use against the student information that the student preferred to remain confidential.
Eugene relies on an account from the student newspaper, excerpted in another blog. But that newspaper article is derived from an underlying text from a campus blog, "Vox Clamantis in Deserto." Eugene focuses only on the political disagreement, but not the not-so-veiled threat that lies behind it:
Next [the administrator] began questioning me about my personal life, including my membership in student groups. He had made clear to me that he knew which groups I belonged to, what positions I held, and who my friends were. As I answered his questions, I got the distinct impression that he was checking his notes against my replies, verifying the records in a file he had compiled on me.The clear concern expressed here is not about a political disagreement, but rather that the administrator was threatening to use this personal information to try to embarrass this student and/or his friends. As I read Eugene's post, he seems to misunderstand the phrase in the story "I think when someone tries to let you know that they know what you're up to" to mean that the administrator was monitoring the student's political views, when in fact, the reference is to the administrator monitoring the student's personal life.
I left that room feeling extremely intimidated, as if I'd been operating under [the administrator's] microscope for a year and nobody had bothered to tell me that my actions were being recorded and monitored. No students at an institute of higher learning, or anywhere for that matter, should endure intimidation of any kind, especially because of their politics. [His] condemnation of my political views, followed by his inquisition into the personal and private details of my life, affectively threatened those freedoms which ought to be sacred.
And that seems like
a clear case of it could be a case of intimidation to me.
Update:I should have clarified that I was assuming the facts as stated by the former student (sort of like a summary judgment analogy), which is what I understood Eugene to be doing as well in his analysis. So I didn't mean to be prejudging the case just based on the little that is known publicly now. I have changed the final sentence of the post to reflect this.