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  • Corey Lee Wilson

Colleges Pledge Tolerance for Diverse Opinions, But Skeptics Remain

After protests shut down many events hosting conservative speakers, schools reassess approach to free speech. Everyone wants an open environment where all members of the academic community can express their ideas honestly, but skeptics say they’ll believe it when they see it.

Increasingly since 2014, the Heterodox Academy reports that students and professors are heavily self-censoring, learning to “walk on eggshells.” Is this going on in your classroom, or at your university or high school? If so, then it is vital to know which students are feeling intimidated, about what topics, and why? Are students primarily afraid of the professors, or of other students? Is it happening in all departments, or only in a few?

Protests on college campuses that shut down events hosting conservative speakers has prompted universities around the country to pledge more tolerance for diverse opinions, “I think there’s a lot of embarrassment on campuses, so some kind of statement from the top might have good-sounding words but actions speak louder than words,” said Jack Citrin, a professor of political science at Berkeley and a member of the Heterodox Academy. “I’d like to see what happens the next time [conservative intellectuals] Charles Murray or Ayaan Hirsi Ali try to speak on a campus.”

The organization says its members come from across the political spectrum. The largest group (25%) consider themselves moderates, according to an internal poll of their members posted on their website.

The Heterodox ranking lists Berkeley as 105 out of 106 schools, citing the protests that stopped Yiannopoulos and Coulter from speaking as well as a missive from the University of California system urging faculty “not to criticize affirmative action or to refer to America as a melting pot.”

A Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) criticized Berkeley for failing to adequately punish violent protesters. “Higher education rests on the free flow of ideas,” he said.

Berkeley’s Intolerance for Conservative Viewpoints is Obvious

A Berkeley spokesman said a misperception has taken root about the school’s tolerance for conservative viewpoints. “We would resist the notion that this campus has been anything other than welcoming to speakers from across the political spectrum,” spokesman Dan Mogulof said. For any sapient being, this is clearly a contradictory statement of the facts and education madness!

The top-ranked school for freedom of speech is the University of Chicago. Provost Dr. Daniel Diermeier said the ideal of viewpoint diversity is central to the university’s mission.

“We believe that the best education we can provide students to prepare them for the world is to hear diverse points of view even if they feel uncomfortable,” Diermeier said. “We want to provide them with the tools to find counterarguments.

But these students need and deserve every encouragement from outside their closed and claustrophobic environs. As one of them put it to me, "There's more faculty interest in climate control than in the Western canon." Multiculturalism guarantees that courses on Islam highlight all the good that can be said of Muhammad and the Quran, but there is no comparable academic commitment to reinvigorating the foundational teachings of American liberal democracy or to strengthening the legacy bequeathed to us by "dead white males."



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