Diversity in the Academy – What a Joke!

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/07/06/diversity-in-the-academy-what-a-joke/

Two years ago, as we launched the NewBostonPost, I wrote a blog article about the alleged diversity in the Academy. The Left pats itself on the back, as it celebrates racial and ethnic diversity in U.S. colleges and universities, as well as gender diversity and even transgender diversity.

But I lamented the near total absence of the most important kind of diversity — intellectual diversity. After all, isn’t intellectual diversity –- the competition of ideas — what the Academy is meant to be all about? If you question the empirical evidence backing up man-made “global warming,” you are a “denier,” who should be relegated to the Flat Earth Society. If you mention that you are pro-life and that abortion is wrong, you will be run off campus before you finish the sentence. Or try to affirm traditional marriage, and you will be shamed with cries of “bigot” and “homophobe.” Throw out the phrase “Make America great again,” and you run the risk of being physically assaulted.

Now, two years later, things have gotten worse — much worse. Violence and harassment now routinely occur. Last February there was a riot at the University of California, Berkeley campus over the appearance of then-Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, with student protesters assaulting conservatives and throwing firebombs at campus facilities. These have almost become the standard tactics of the leftist fascists on campus, yet they proudly now call themselves “progressives.”

A month later, a student mob prevented Charles Murray from speaking at Middlebury College, the elite Vermont school where tuition runs $61,000 a year. Mr. Murray is a highly distinguished political scientist, sociologist, and author. He is also a Fellow at the influential conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. His books enrage many progressives, not the least because they contain reams of data, which make his arguments hard to refute. Not only was he prevented from speaking in public by the mob (he was forced to videotape his talk in the basement of the building where he was supposed to speak), enraged students later assaulted his host, Professor Allison Stanger, who ended up at the hospital where she was treated for neck injuries and a concussion.

Several weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary committee held hearings in Washington D.C. about what is effectively the censorship of free speech on college campuses. Both students and professors testified that conservative views are in danger of being shut down. Zachary Woods, a rising senior at Williams College, said that “in classrooms, liberal arguments are often treated as unquestionable truths.”  He said other views are unwelcome. Woods went on to say:  “I cannot name a single conservative speaker that has been brought to campus by the administration.” Woods is a 21-year-old African-American who is the president of Uncomfortable Learning, a program that seeks to give a forum at Williams to speakers with highly controversial views.

An example of how free speech is censored at Williams occurred in October 2015, when Woods’s group decided to cancel a talk by anti-feminism author Suzanne Venker because of security concerns stemming from the online harassment and otherwise hostile environment created by other Williams students. A few months later, in February 2016, Williams College President Adam Falk banned controversial writer and speaker John Derbyshire from speaking at an event organized by Uncomfortable Learning, calling some of Derbyshire’s expressions hate speech.

It certainly appears that Williams College has a long history of shutting down or marginalizing conservative views. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Morton Shapiro, president of Williams from 2000 to 2009 and now president of Northwestern University, said that students need safe spaces — places where people who share an identity can retreat, relax, and recoup. This might mean sharing a meal with students who are all of the same color or religion. This is necessary, he opined, because microagressions –- small acts of bias — are real and leave scars. He went on in the interview to give an example of a microagression which happened to him, when a woman told him that “your people [Jews] are such musical people.” What a remarkably trivial example of microagression. If this kind of comment results in the need for safe spaces on campus, it is easy to see how colleges shut down free speech on the great moral issues of the day – life, sexuality and gender, marriage, immigration.

On college campuses in America, the administrations and faculties sustain left-wing orthodoxy by labeling anything not part of the liberal canon as offensive and hate speech. Intellectual diversity on campus is a joke. Why does this situation continue? Not enough people stand up to it. They shake their heads from afar, but they don’t do anything. Trustees, alumni, parents, and students need to show the same moral courage that Zachary Woods did in Washington D.C. at the Senate Judiciary hearings and act boldly to reverse the tide of censorship.


Robert H. Bradley is an alumnus of Williams College. He is also Chairman of Bradley, Foster & Sargent Inc., a $3.25 billion wealth management firm that has offices in Hartford, Connecticut, and Wellesley, Massachusetts. This column represents his personal views and does not represent the views of the firm. Read other columns by him here.