My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
Universities have often been cauldrons of controversy and social change. They are lodged at the fault line of youthful idealism and ancient knowledge. In recent years, far too many universities have been creating an environment of hate and oppressing free thought in the name of political correctness. One university, at least, is paying the price for going too far.
Last fall the University of Missouri was roiled by controversy. In the wake of several incidents of racism around campus, a group called “Concerned Student 1950,” a reference to the year in which MU first admitted black students, led protests demanding, among other things, the resignation of MU’s president, Thomas Wolfe, for not “doing enough” to combat racism on campus. Black football players supported the protests by refusing to practice until Wolfe resigned.
Despite the fact Wolfe and the rest of the administration were, like most liberals running universities these days, exceedingly willing to pour taxpayer dollars on the smallest fires of racism, the university caved to the students’ demands and forced him out.
This capitulation was followed by the public spectacle of MU professor Melissa Click being shown on video calling for “some muscle” to remove a photojournalist who was covering one of the race protests. She was later caught screaming obscenities at police officers at another protest. Despite one of their professor’s overt acts to suppress media coverage, even with violence, to the protests, MU officials initially stood by her actions. Later, after she was criminally charged, they finally fired her in a close vote.
MU’s actions last year sent a clear message. The people who run that university are unwilling to support the right of all students to be heard and will sacrifice anything to remain in the good graces of the racial provocateurs. The citizens of Missouri responded to that message by sending the smallest freshman class in a decade to the campus. The incoming freshman class declined by more than 1,400 students from last year as part of an overall decline in enrollment of more than 2,200 students. That is a 7-percent drop in one year. This comes as other universities in Missouri, like Missouri State University, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, are seeing strong increases in enrollment.
Contrast the stench at MU with the fresh breeze emanating from the University of Chicago. Freshman entering UC were welcomed with a letter from the dean of students informing them of the university’s “commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.” The letter continues on to define that commitment as not supporting “so-called ‘trigger warnings,’” and saying, “We do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspective at odds with their own.”
That sort of commitment to a rigorous learning environment where all ideas are welcomed to be offered and challenged is supposed to be the ideal. Sadly, most of our universities have created an oppressive culture gilded with comforting words like “diversity” and “sensitivity” that squashes any words or thoughts that do not conform to the current politically correct doctrine. Letters like the one at UC should be welcome every incoming freshman at every American university. Instead, it is an anomaly worthy of note.
Perhaps the reaction to MU’s actions and the letter at UC represent a pivot to our nation’s universities striving for the ideal of being arenas where all ideas are welcomed to be debated and challenged.
Perhaps not, but we can hope.