Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Small Part

I've watched with astonishment as multiple universities descended into insanity in the last couple years.  Both my almae matres were affected: Princeton's president catered to protesters who took over his office, and Yale students who organized protests where a college Master was cursed and yelled at were given "leadership" awards at graduation.  I don't doubt that students, including the ones protesting here, may have legitimate grievances, but these latest movements have been bullying in their tactics and misguided in their demands.  You can read the petition I signed onto in Princeton's case.

Woodrow Wilson (photo from history.com), Princeton's most famous alumnus and a former Princeton president, was one of the targets of the protests at Princeton. Thankfully, he avoided having his name scraped off Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs.
But lately, the descent into madness seems to be accelerating. Charles Murray, who has been unfairly maligned as a eugenicist monster, came to Middlebury to deliver a lecture only to be shouted down and physically attacked, with the offending students barely receiving any punishment. Berkeley hasn't been able to host certain conservative speakers without violence breaking out. And very recently, Brett Weinstein, at Evergreen college has been literally hunted because he didn't think he should be asked to leave campus due to his race, and he is receiving no support from the administration. (Listen to this if you want to see how bad things have gotten.) 

In this post, I won't go into the reasons why I think things have gotten so out of control; I have some ideas, but I'm also dumbfounded.  I will say that these latest incidents are so obviously unacceptable that I figured that most university faculty would be on the side of free expression, but it seems I may be sadly mistaken about this.  Brett Weinstein reported that the vast majority of his colleagues who have spoken out on this issue are actually calling on him to be disciplined, and only one other Evergreen professor is willing to defend him publicly.  The protesters and many faculty even blame Weinstein for going on Fox News as the cause of the chaos that resulted on their campus in the aftermath.

So, as a university professor, I want to do my small part and publicly defend Brett Weinstein.  No group should feel entitled to ask any other group to leave campus, especially based on skin color or ethnicity.  Faculty should be able to express their opposition to such requests and to other bad policies without fear of being labeled racists. To me, it is clear that the organizers of some of these protest movements are the actual racists. And Brett Weinstein should be able to go on Fox News or any other forum to express his dismay at the situation.  Needless to say, I also condemn any efforts to silence Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, or the other people facing illiberal forces on college campuses.

It's time to stand up for free and spirited debate and for respectful discourse and common decency. If universities are to remain centers for inquiry and progress, we cannot afford to give these regressive movements another inch.

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