Liberal intolerance on campus

Liberal intolerance on campus

By Gene Budig and Alan Heaps

Based on conversations with 12 university and college presidents, a continuation of liberal intolerance on campus appears likely in the 2014-2015 school year.

Such unfortunate acts were carried out last spring at Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers and Smith.

In each case, liberals silenced invited guests to commencements because they found them to be politically objectionable.

One such invitee was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a distinguished professor at Stanford University. While one may or may not agree with her politics, her integrity and commitment to public service are unquestioned.

Those leaders we contacted fear that continuance of such activities will undermine the fundamentals of academic freedom, a cornerstone of academia.

And the impact will be a lessening in the fundamental belief in the importance of colleges and universities everywhere, further chipping away at their reputations for intellectual freedom, open discourse and unbiased research.

Eleven of the 12 admitted to being distressed by seeing college commencement speakers withdraw, or have invitations rescinded, aftersmall numbers of outspoken students and faculty members objected.

The 12th was irate that senior faculty members were involved in these actions since they had enjoyed the fruits of academic freedom. He also said too many undergraduates are too easily led and swayed.

Michael Bloomberg, businessman and former mayor of New York City, at this spring's commencement speech at Harvard, said that "As a former chairman of Johns Hopkins, I believe a university's obligation is not to teach students what to think, but to teach students how to think."

This requires respectfully listening to all sides — left, right and in between — and weighing arguments without prejudging them.

Without this, higher education will produce minds unable to make their own decisions, failing both the students and society, and eventually eroding public support.

Hearing differing views is part of the learning process at all levels ofhigher education.

So said Bill Bowen, the former president of Princeton University. He blasted students at Haverford College who campaigned against Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley.

More than 40 students and three professors had protested Birgeneau's invitation to speak, objecting to his handling of a 2011 incident at Berkeley.

Bowen said the students were "immature" and "arrogant." His remarks drew a standing ovation.

The surveyed leaders have every intention of standing against intolerance and they will reinforce time-tested academic freedom and values.

They are confident that their governing boards will support them.Working with them and duly constituted campus committees to select speakers, they will not be bullied by a few and ignore the rights of the majority.

The college heads said students are restive today because of a lack ofgood jobs and mounting debt. Still, the great majority believes in the long-term value of a college degree and the campus experience of intellectual freedom.

As the former mayor of New York City also said:

"Scientific skepticism is healthy. But there is a world of difference between scientific skepticism that seeks out more evidence and ideological stubbornness that shuts it out."

What we believe is that presidents, trustees and others in higher education community will stand firm on the time-honored values of academic freedom.

But we can also anticipate that a small minority of ill-mannered faculty and students will continue with loud voices that will make their peers in the majority uneasy.

The media will delight in it, overstating its significance on cable news and in student publications.

In no way do we envy the college presidents of 2015, but we do have confidence in higher education and their long-held value systems, ones that are certain to continue to be tested in the future.

Too often, superficiality and intolerance runs deep, but we look forward to a time when the commitment to intellectual freedom runs even deeper.

Gene Budig, past president/chancellor of three major state universities and of Major League Baseball's American League, is the chairman of The News-Gazette, Inc. Alan Heaps is a former vice president of the College Board in New York City.

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SaintClarence27 wrote on June 22, 2014 at 11:06 am

Guess what? Commencement isn't a free speech issue. It' sup to the school and students to decide who THEY want to hear. Simply choosing not to hear someone they disagree with has nothing to do with "silencing" anyone. They are still free to spout their views on campus - just not at commencement.

STM wrote on June 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Maybe the rejection of Condoleeza Rice has more to do with her veracity (or lack thereof) than her politics.  In other words, maybe the students were simply not wanting to fill their graduation ceremony with more lies. Dr. Rice and other like-minded Bush administration officials, along with their mouthpieces in the media (including the News Gazette) helped steer this country toward an as-yet unresolved conflict in Iraq. 

Listening to right-wingers, who've refined censorship and double-speak to an artform, cry about this issue is the most ironic thing I've read in months.

Not only are they spreading this tripe in the News Gazette, but you can Google this same article in their other rags.

Mr. Pot (Budig& Heap), meet Mr. Kettle

STM wrote on June 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm



Yes I believe Rice is a liar.  I also believe the student body can reject any speaker they wish.  I'm not even certain they used lying as a reason, but it's as good as any.  

You assume to know my beliefs, you don't.  You assume I've been "duped," look in the mirror.  You're assuming a lot from a guy who probably hasn't read 1984 (or at least understood it).

My comment was to call out guys like Budig who don't seem to mind censorship until it's blocking their message.  When they experience it, whoa the agony and outrage!  Apparently it struck a nerve with you as well.  I'm still amazed you're missing the irony. ...and my point.