By Karoline Ott
Too many public universities continue to restrict campus free speech, and private universities are buckling under the pressure to fit in with this latest trend in higher education. Just last year, Middlebury came under fire when they re-evaluated their free speech policies after a visit from Charles Murray enraged leftist students, who took violent measures to shut him down, lest he express views more controversial than what they are taught in the classroom. When private universities like TCU and Baylor are paying tens of thousands of dollars to “Bias Response Teams,” finding a private college campus where educators are committed to teaching concepts beyond their owns bias can be difficult. For young adults hungry to learn, Dallas Baptist University demonstrates how private schools can sustain personal values while maintaining the integrity of true education.
DBU not only preserves education through studying ideas beyond the ones they endorse, but patriotism, learning about the founding fathers, and discussing our nation’s history are as much a part of school brand as the colonial-inspired buildings. This results in a far more constitutionally-literate student body, one familiar with the First Amendment, something most college students haven’t been refreshed on since grade school.
DBU proudly holds chapel services twice a week and encourages prayer in the classroom, rituals becoming less and less frequent at once proudly religious private schools. As they should, DBU invests the dollars given by donors and paid by students to improve campus facilities and provide more programs; not to building “zones for free speech” or services to address those who feel as though they have been “offended” by it. One of their practical solutions to maintaining a peaceful climate is encouraging students who feel threatened by the expression of certain ideas to take advantage of the free resources around them, including their RA’s, professors, and counseling services.
DBU does not implement physical zones where—and only where—free speech is allowed. Unlike their public counterparts, they recognize that designating safe spaces where students can say whatever they want implies they are not free to say what they think on other parts of campus. Secondly, students feel less pressure to write and speak to the personal views of their professors. As the political climate has become more liberally charged, so too have private universities been swept into the idea that the classroom is now a pulpit from which an ideology should be preached. The maintenance of echo chambers on campus starves students of the primary element of education: discovery of ideas beyond one’s own. One of the ways DBU sparks genuine learning is by leaving professor bias out of the classroom. Rarely have I experienced a benefit by tailoring my essays to match the expressed opinions from my professors at DBU. Why? Typically, I do not know the personal opinions of my professors concerning political matters. And unless requested by a student or relevant to the discussion, this is how it should be.
Furthermore, DBU students have made the conscious choice to seek a place where intellectual honesty is celebrated. This breeds curiosity-fueled conversations between students, rather than politically-charged shout-downs. When students discuss, it is to learn rather than to convince—to make a point, rather than to expose the other person’s moral depravity for contrary thinking.
It isn’t simply that implementing a Bias Response Team is a waste of time and money; simply not having one acts as a bold beacon asserting that civil discourse must be mastered by young adults rather than regulated by others. At Dallas Baptist University, hurt feelings are not deemed a path to physical harm, and the acknowledgement of controversial views is not shamed by a campus culture that tip-toes around uncomfortable ideas.
If public universities do not reinstitute classrooms as places of exploration, and set the example for the student body of civil discourse, high-school graduates will continue to seek the superior ROI for higher education at private universities like DBU.
Karoline Ott studies Public Relations and Spanish at Dallas Baptist University and is an active member of Sigma Tau Delta, Lambda Pi Eta, and the Organization of Latin American Students. She has worked as an Editor-in-Chief for TheOdysseyOnline and her Buzzfeed content has accrued over one million hits.