Is Intellectual Diversity Virtually Dead on College Campuses?

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It is quite conceivable that no well-known Republican or conservative will any longer be permitted or able to speak on many college campuses.  There is more truth in this than exaggeration.  The precedent has been firmly established, from both inside and outside campus protestors.  Protest is advancing in quantum leaps.

We saw that of course from inside campus against Dr. Charles Murray at Middlebury College.  What most people don’t know is that the faculty fueled the fire:  scores of them sent a letter to the president of Middlebury College, asking her not to introduce Dr. Murray because such would make his presence on campus “legitimate.”   Do you think they might have conveyed this political bias to the kids?  By the way, long ago, I had Dr. Murray speak at Hillsdale College.  He was a gentleman and a scholar.

We saw it of course at UC Berkeley, where, even before Ann Coulter appeared on campus, violent, destructive protests occurred.  Some were UC Berkeley students, but many were members of an Oakland-city gang.  They wore masks to conceal identity.

We saw it at Claremont College, where conservative writer Heather MacDonald was not permitted to speak.  That is a surprising one because Claremont is a fairly conservative school.

It gets potentially worse.  Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, writes:  “In New England, where my own university is located, liberal professors outnumber their conservative colleagues by a ratio of 28:1.”  Similarly, I recall many years ago when I taught at Eastern Michigan University, there were 77 faculty members in the English Department.  I was the only avowed Republican—and I took lots of flak.

The most recent case occurred at Texas Southern University, where 863 people signed a petition demanding that Senator John Cornyn not be permitted to give the earlier scheduled commencement address.  His address was cancelled the day before commencement.

But there is something here that the public doesn’t know.  TSU president Austin Lane, a friend of mine, reported in the Wall Street Journal on May 17 what forced the cancellation.  Says Dr. Lane:  “The problem was this outside influence. . . . They contacted us, these black militants, these Black Lives Matter groups—official and unofficial.  And then you had these white groups who were coming to protest the protestors.  So it was no longer about a commencement.”  “It was a mutual agreement [between TSU and Mr. Cornyn] that he not come.”  The university, to their credit, asked him to come back later.

The May 17th Journal further reports this outside rebellious influence against Sec. Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement, an historically black college.  There were “50,000 signatures opposing Mrs. DeVos’ commencement address.”  Her opposition “was not started by students and alumni but by the National Education Association, the nation’s biggest and richest teachers union and . . . a state chapter of the NAACP.”

So what do we do about intolerant, disruptive, violent political protests on campus, an ever growing phenomenon?  Will bringing in police troops to ensure that Republicans and conservatives can speak safely on campus solve the problem or will it only exacerbate the problem, bringing in, as happened at UC Berkeley, masked protestors in mass?  And can administrators and faculty members be more outspoken in defense of political and intellectual diversity?  Don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the kids will continue to shout and the administrators will continue to capitulate in fear and weakness.  “Courage,” observed C. S. Lewis, “is the most difficult virtue, because it is all virtues at the testing point.”

Dr. Murray puts the future, I think, accurately for many colleges and universities:  “Academia is already largely sequestered in an ideological bubble,” where “a minority has intimidated the majority.” He adds, “A campus where a majority of students are fearful to speak openly because they know a minority will jump on them is no longer an intellectually free campus in any meaningful sense.”  Similarly, “a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority.”

The future of intellectual diversity on campuses is moribund.

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