Diversity in our multi-cultural and free society is healthy, essential and foundational. But what of viewpoint diversity? Why discourage a different opinion? In a rational environment, it makes sense to explain why a non-conforming opinion might be mistaken.
It is the mark of an autocrat not to tolerate other opinions. Absolutists, Czars, Emperors and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un do not tolerate other opinions.
American universities have traditionally lit the path of the classic liberal traditions of free speech, civil discourse and viewpoint diversity. American universities today still encourage open discussion and still tolerate a variety of opinions … right? Perhaps reconsider that.
The following quote was co-authored by Dr. Cornell West (resigned from Harvard University in June 2021) and Dr. Robert P. George (Princeton University), James Madison Program-Princeton University, March 14, 2017.
“It is all-too-common these days for people to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to dominate in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions, or by disrupting their presentations, or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or if they have already been invited, dis-invited. Sometimes students and faculty members turn their backs on speakers whose opinions they don’t like or simply walk out and refuse to listen to those whose convictions offend their values.”
Since 2017, the forming of many organizations (see following examples) suggests the suppression of free speech, rejection of viewpoint diversity and intolerance for non-conforming opinions has only increased at American Universities.
The Alumni Free Speech Alliance was recently founded
Alumni are about the only university stakeholders who may freely express opinions without facing the threat that students, staff, or trustees would face.
The Alliance is non-partisan and states its mission is to stand up for free inquiry.
The founders of the Alliance are alumni from the following universities:
Davidson College – Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse – dftdunite.org
Cornell University – Cornell Free Speech Alliance – cornellfreespeech.com (NOTE:includes a list of 80 universities that have adopted “The Chicago Principles.”)
University of Virginia – Jefferson Council – thejeffersoncouncil.com (NOTE:includes a list of organizations championing the cause of “intellectual diversity.”)
Princeton University – Princetonians for Free Speech – princetoniansforfreespeech.com
Liberal Caucus of the Cornell Political Union (Aug 30, 2021)
“We write as a group of liberals frustrated with the current campus hostility towards free speech and open dialogue. We believe that a repressive campus culture only isolates and radicalizes, but does not eliminate, those dissenting views. The goal is to win hearts and minds – not cancel them. While we find the left’s goals and laudable, we question the tactics used by our fellow students to achieve those goals.”
“… Goodwill is essential to honest political discourse. According to Prof. John Rose, Duke University, 68% of student respondents to an anonymous survey reported that they self-censor around their friends.”
The launch of a new university – the University of Austin – UATX
Nearly 30 members comprising the founding trustees and the board of advisors created a new university, the University of Austin. (uaustin.org)
Advisors trustees include Harvard President Emeritus Larry Summers, Brown University economist Glenn Loury, former ACLU President Nadine Strossen, prize winning author David Mamet (The Secret Knowledge – Sentinel 2011) and Arthur Brooks.
The university has already received more than 3,000 inquiries (2021) from potential faculty. (Ph:512.348.7252; firstname.lastname@example.org)
“An international group of academics, writers and entrepreneurs announced this week the launch of a new university in Austin committed to ideological diversity and academic freedom. This is a bold group of individuals who are willing to say ‘we are committed to these long-held ideals of the pursuit of truth, academic freedom, open inquiry, and spirited debate’, said University of Austin advisor Stacy Hock in an exclusive interview with The Texan.” (thetexan.news – Nov 12, 2021)
THE ALUMNI ALLIANCE SHARES A COMMON RESOLVE (thejeffersoncouncil.com) “… to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.”
In his book Why Liberalism Failed, Yale University Press – 2018, Patrick Deneen succinctly observes what’s happening in today’s universities.
Liberalism taken to its extreme “… undermines education by replacing a definition of liberty as an education in self-government with liberty as autonomy and the absence of constraint. Ultimately it destroys liberal education, since it begins with the assumption that we are born free, rather than that we must learn to become free.”
“Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
It might make sense to have conversations with college students you have a strong relationship with. Find out if your own anecdotal survey matches up with the results of Duke’s Professor Rose’s survey (see above).
If you believe it is dysfunctional for 68% of students to practice self censoring, then perhaps continue your research until you decide to confront the fodder that disputes the value of viewpoint diversity.
Also check out the Academic Freedom Alliance – (academicfreedom.org). The following quote is from their website.
“Members of the Academic Freedom Alliance come from across the political spectrum. We are united in our commitment to truth-seeking scholarship, and in recognizing that an attack on academic freedom anywhere is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.
Within established ethical and legal bounds, we pledge to defend faculty members’ freedom of thought and expression in their work as researchers and writers, as well as in their lives as citizens; their freedom to design courses and conduct classes using reasonable pedagogical judgment; and their right to be unburdened by ideological tests, affirmations, and oaths.”
AND – check out the new School of Civic Life and Leadership at the University of North Carolina. It was initiated by the Trustees and is dedicated to free inquiry and open academic discourse. The faculty leadership is against it. This occurred in January 2023. WHY the distress between the Trustees and the faculty?
For more information – here are several sources: The Tar Heel, Aby Pender, January 30, 2023; washingtonpost.com 2/1/23; wsj.com 2/1/23.