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Eleven of the 12 admitted to being distressed by seeing college commencement speakers withdraw, or have invitations rescinded, aftersmall numbers of outspoken students and faculty members objected.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

Skepticity wrote on June 22, 2014 at 2:06 pm

 

Quote:

"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, after small 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 of higher education." 


 

This is a well stated and very accurate statement. 

Strident activists do not constitute the entirety of a university.  The problem is finding a university administration that will stand up to the activists and support the expression of differing viewpoints. 

The free speech movement is not about free speech if it only allows the current politically approved discourse. 

 

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

Skepticity wrote on June 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

You believe that a Ms. Rice, a speaker from the right lies, and therefore her views should not be heard. Isn't that censorship, when you say that those views should not be heard?

You say that the right wing has refined censorship and double-speak. 

Actually, your position is that because her right wing worldview is not consistent with your left wing views, she should not be heard. 

You infer that you believe those from the left tell the truth and should be heard.

If 50 people protested would you have supported barring Anita Hill from speaking?

It seems that in your world view Socialists and Communists and Progressives never have used propaganda or have misrepresented a situation for their own political interest. 

With you being from the left, we can rest assured that you are telling us the truth about all this. 

That is so reassuring!


 

Sorry, I don't believe that only one side lies, misrepresents, uses doublespeak and censors.  All sides in politics lie frequently, unfortunately. 

The exercise of political power engenders the practice of lying in support of political interests.  I believe Saul Alinsky wrote a book about how to do this, called “Rules for Radicals.” I don't think he was a right winger. 


 

You are apparently either duped by the left and can only see lies from the right and not the left, or you are a willing participant in the misrepresentation of others with whom you disagree politically. 

From the tenor of your statements, probably the latter. 


 

When relatively small groups of activists can bar speakers of differing viewpoints from being heard that is clearly a case of politically correct censorship.  And if you deny that it is censorship and justify it by lying about their views to discredit them while adopting an air of righteousness, I believe that qualifies as doublespeak. 

The unwillingness to tolerate the expression of dissenting beliefs is the hallmark of totalitarian regimes.

Read 1984.

 

 

 

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

 

Skepticity,

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.

Skepticity wrote on June 25, 2014 at 11:06 pm

The student body did not reject her.  A vocal minority of student and professor activists threw a fuss and held a sit in, leading her to choose to withdraw from speaking at Rutgers.  Other student groups at the school were displeased that the activists succeeded in silencing her by intimidation. 

Regarding being duped, you clearly did not read my reply.  I said it was "probably the latter." ("or you are a willing participant in the misrepresentation of others with whom you disagree politically.")  I think I was right about that. 

Yes, I've read "1984".  I believe I understood it pretty well, but most likely not the way you did.  I don't see the world through the one sided lense that you use.  It doesn't matter whether the totalitarians are thinking from the left or from the right.  The key issue is that in a totalitarian system you must think the way of those in power or face consequences.  Anyone remember the Soviet Union? 

I oppose the silencing of dissenting views from any side. 

You find it ironic that speakers from the right now protest limits on their speech imposed by activists, when you believe they were guilty of doing the same to those in the left when they were in power.  I find it sad that you revel in the stiffling of speech in the name of payback. 

I am disappointed that we cannot have a civil society that allows the free expression of diverse ideas.