Robby Soave focuses his career on controversial takes about sensitive issues.
By Carlos Diaz Barriga
These are just some of the headlines from articles written by Robby Soave, a 27-year-old columnist at The Daily Beast, a politics and pop culture news site, and associate editor at Reason.com, a politics and culture blog site published by the libertarian Reason Foundation.
Soave focuses on education policy and college issues such as free speech and political correctness. Just this year alone, at the time of publication, he has written over 60 articles on the subject on Reason.com and 10 columns on The Daily Beast, which is considered left-leaning but regularly features conservative voices.
His unapologetic approach to these issues has made him stand out from a sea of reporters trying to explain college kids to news readers.
He has previously written articles that differ from popular opinion. Soave publicly questioned Rolling Stone’s story on an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house on the University of Virginia’s campus a month after it was published. Soave wrote, “Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?” This warranted Jezebel, a blog site aimed toward women, to call him an “idiot” – and later apologize when Rolling Stone retracted the story.
Against the grain
When the student government of the University of California-Davis offered an apology about a campus event that used sumo wrestling costumes, Soave wrote the article “UC-Davis Students: Sumo Wrestling Fat Suit Amounts to Anti-Asian Racism, White Supremacy,” on Reason.com.
“I’m a super minority,” Soave said on how he’s approaching the current issue of free speech and safe spaces in higher education. He said his approach to the stories is “moderate” and “middle-ground, corresponding to the actual facts.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Soave was a journalist at The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, for two years before graduating in 2010. He covered university administration and financing issues.
Soave, previously a reporter at the conservative news site The Daily Caller, started writing about the subject of freedom of speech and safe spaces on college campuses approximately two years ago, when he noticed a “sharp uptick” in the number of cases being reported.
According to Soave, one of the main causes for what he calls the “safe space mentality” on campuses is that “the federal government increasingly has instructed college administrators to adopt a broad understanding of what constitutes harassment.” Soave referred to the resource guide handed out to universities in April 2015 by the Office for Civil Rights, a sub-agency of the Department of Education, regarding Title IX.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities in federally funded schools at all levels. Soave said the guide is “subjective” when it comes to a definition of harassment and that encourages more complaints from students.
He has previously called the Office for Civil Rights a “rogue agency” in one of his Reason.com articles.
“College campuses are probably the safest place in the world,” said Soave.
For Soave, the definition of safety has been “kind of tortured beyond anything actually useful.” He credits the idea of feeling “unsafe” to a minority of “very loud, very vocal students.” This can have a “chilling and silencing effect” on the political discourse on campus.
There are a lot of people in the media covering these issues “horribly,” said Soave, with “very little responsible reporting on this.” He said some reporters are “drumming up hysteria about this and totally exaggerating the situation.”
Soave said the issue of free speech and safe spaces on college campuses is affecting how student journalists are able to operate at college newspapers. His recommendation to current student journalists is to have “a better understanding” of the First Amendment, what it means and how it applies to them.
He said universities are more focused on public relations and “muzzle” their students in order to preserve a good public image.
“You want people on campus very vehemently disagreeing with each other and provoking and irritating each other, because that’s how you grow and develop intellectually.”