How dare a campus group dare to go ahead and invite a speaker deemed insufficiently progressive, and then actually bring that person to campus? What to do if an objectionable speaker somehow sneaks through the cracks?
The answer is obvious: prevent the speech from taking place “by all means necessary.”
So it is not surprising that this next step has erupted nationwide. Four examples stand out: Milo Yiannopoulos’ disrupted speech at Berkeley; Ben Shapiro’s at Wisconsin; Charles Murray’s at Middlebury; and Heather MacDonald’s at Claremont McKenna College. These episodes involved threatening and sometimes violent behavior that drastically disrupted the events.
That is University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor Donald Downs, writing “Free Speech Is More Threatened Than Ever and We Must Respond.”
We’re still waiting for the Wisconsin State Journal to respond (The Capital Times has responded — they support the speech disrupters. Along with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.)
But the issue goes deeper that protecting free speech, which the Campus Free Speech Act will do. (The Squire explicates here.) The issue is being exposed to different ideas in the first place. The professoriate is almost exclusively liberal-progressive-socialist, often radically so.
The thugs who disrupted the Ben Shapiro speech justify their harassment with a mix of Marxist mumbo jumbo and Black Lives Matter sloganeering. The speech terrorists did not spontaneously generate from thin air. They were taught their intolerance. Courses like “The Problem of Whiteness,” the entire field of race and gender studies promote hate and intolerance. They have not been taught to think because their indoctrination has never been challenged. Who is there on the UW campus to challenge it? Professor Downs is retired.
Democrats are having a hissy fit that a center be created on campus in the name and spirit of Tommy G. Thompson.
(The Trump phenomenon is a reaction to the scourge of identity politics.)
It may well be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God but just try to find a Republican in the UW-Madison sociology department.
Send in the cavalry
Professor Downs is a member of something called Heterodox Academy. Its mission is “to increase viewpoint diversity in the academy.”
We are a politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.
To reverse this process, we have come together to advocate for a more intellectually diverse and heterodox academy.
FACT: Heterodox Academy estimates that something like only 5% of professors in the humanities and social science departments at major universities are conservative.
FACT: The Policy Werkes’ own research finds that University of Wisconsin employees contributed $745,951 to federal candidates or political PACs in the 2016 election cycle. Ninety-five percent (95%) of that went to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.
So, it is welcome news that UC-Berkeley, where Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were prevented from speaking, is considering adding conservative faculty “to broaden the spectrum of political discourse on campus,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
We’re in the middle of the pack
Heterodox Academy ranks the 106 largest universities by how available and welcome is diversity of thought. UW-Madison ranks 42nd.
1. University of Chicago
2. William and Mary, George Mason, Tennessee
5. Carnegie Mellon, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia
11. Arizona State, Maryland
13. Purdue, Washington U. (St. Louis)
42. Wisconsin, Michigan State
73. Illinois, Missouri
91. Marquette, Rutgers
105. UC Berkeley, Harvard
Yeah, yeah, we know. The University of Wisconsin board of regents adopted a free speech statement. And the old Soviet Union had a constitution that put nice words on parchment. Tell us, what punishment was meted out to the speech disrupters?
In his May 17 article, Prof. Downs continued:
None of this will matter unless … sanctions for disrupters that have sufficient teeth. Disruptions of speakers strike at the very heart of the idea of an open university. Suspension from the school—the second strongest campus-based penalties—is not out of line given the problem today. And in cases of repeated offense, outright expulsion would be merited. — “Free Speech Is More Threatened Than Ever and We Must Respond.”
For extra credit:
- “Beware of Republicans in the Campus Lecture Hall.”
- “Liberals are worried that a Republican-backed proposal to establish a center for freedom of speech at University of Wisconsin, Madison will undermine their policy agenda.” — Campus Reform
- I interviewed Professor Donald Downs and many others for this story: “UW-Madison’s Diversity Problem; it isn’t racial, but intellectual.”