The BLOG: Voices

Crucial type of diversity lacking in America’s universities

Joseph M. Cunningham, Jr.

Joseph M. Cunningham, Jr.

Yes, there is racial and ethnic diversity in U.S. colleges and universities. There is also social and economic diversity among students and faculty. There is gender diversity and even transgender diversity.

But there is a near total absence of intellectual diversity. After all, isn’t intellectual diversity — the competition of ideas — what the Academy is meant to be all about? 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, you will be shamed with cries of “bigot” and “homophobe” if not physically assaulted. Question “climate change” and you are a “denier” who deserves to be brought into court, as ExxonMobil is finding out.

Alan Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, recently wrote the following about diversity on campus:

“The last thing that these students want is real diversity, diversity of ideas. They may want superficial diversity, diversity of gender, diversity of color, but they do not want diversity of ideas … (The students) want complete control of their personal lives, over their sex lives, over the use of drugs, but they want mommy and daddy dean and president to please give them a safe place to protect them from ideas that may be insensitive, maybe will make them think… If you are going to be a college administrator or a professor, if you have tenure, you have to speak back to the students, you have to call these things what they are: double standards, hypocrisy, bigotry, McCarthyism, and the fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities.”

The recent events at the University of Missouri remind us vividly of the social revolution in the 1960s and 1970s when university president after university president handed the leadership of the school over to the students. One would think that the players on the football team would be grateful for the free education that they have been offered rather than angry at the university for racial injustice. With the U.S. having a black President and a black candidate leading the polls in the Republican presidential primaries, the charge of institutionalized racism in the U.S. misses the mark by a mile. You can read 20 newspapers on the events at Mizzou and not discover one documented act of racism (other than a swastika reportedly painted on a dorm bathroom wall with feces, which presumably affects Jews rather than blacks). One of the charges against the administration was their “silence” after a black criminal, Michael Brown, was killed by the police officer he had assaulted in Ferguson. Yet the President and Chancellor were forced to resign.

Now the virus is coming to Massachusetts. Over the last several days, students at Amherst College have organized a protest against the administration, listing 11 demands. I won’t bore you with the demands, but will close by reciting what the students want President Martin to apologize for: the “institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle East racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.” What more can one say about diversity in the Academy!