To hear many on the Left speak, college campuses today are populated by misogynist rapists, close-minded bigots and people who unknowingly spout dog-whistle racial and ethnic slurs. This view sits very nicely with their overall worldview that college students need to be coddled and insulated in a bubble from that racist, sexist capitalist world beyond the campus boundaries. Where did our colleges and universities go wrong?
Some point to the 1960s and all the campus unrest shrouded in free speech rights and movements and sit-ins or teach-ins. But, surely that cannot be the case because many of the former advocates of free speech on campuses are now the very people drowning out free speech on campuses. Today’s leading academics are the progeny of those free speech movements. And with the commencement of the class of 2015 comes an annual rite of Spring- harassing away speakers with whom the listeners take offense. However, a funny thing has happened this year: there is a shortage of controversy, not because there is a lack of potentially controversial speakers out there, but because colleges are simply avoiding them. In effect, the Left has won.
Granted, most of today’s commencement exercises have two basic goals- (1) photo opportunities and (2) the after-graduation ceremony party. I fully understand the reason to party after sitting through a generally boring commencement ceremony after four years of learning Gender Studies. Such would drive anyone to drink heavily. While some colleges are finalizing plans for commencement speakers, many are already settled and the list is worthy of glazing over anyone’s eyes.
Before 2015, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the average number of speakers uninvited has risen from six in 1970 to 30 in 2014. If you happen to be a conservative speaker, your chances of being uninvited are three times greater than the more liberal speaker according to FIRE. If you happen to be critical of Islam, or pro-Israeli, forget it altogether. Can anyone imagine the uproar if Benjamin Netanyahu were invited to speak at Vassar, Harvard or Columbia?
A perfect example this year is the University of North Texas which scheduled Governor Greg Abbott as their commencement speaker. Thus far, an online petition has garnered 1,700 signatures against his appearance. And what are Abbott’s sins? According to one of the graduates and future leaders of our country, “A lot of the perspectives he has don’t reflect the perspectives of students at this college.” Really? And who appointed this person to speak for all students? For the record, Abbott supports better border control and does not support same sex marriage. That is a perfect recipe for getting yourself uninvited.
The damage from previous years has been done by the Left. Thus far, the only known cancellation of a speaker due to campus resistance was one of a hip-hop artist at Kean University in New Jersey, but even here that was over police security concerns rather than student efforts. There is the aforementioned petition at the University of North Texas and some students are grumbling over the choice of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin to be the speaker at Ohio State (too boring is their reason). There are no Ayaan Hirsi-Alis, no Condoleeza Rices, no Bill O’Reillys, no IMF or World Bank leaders to uninvite this year. Instead, college speakers reflect the Left- sterile, bland, boring, devoid of controversy lest the feelings of someone be hurt, so “yesterday.”
Isn’t this the typical tactic of the Left? They decry bullying in so many areas, yet they then actually bully colleges into submission. They demand free speech, then shut down free speech. They want freedom of association unless that association includes people they have decreed to be persona non grata. A sure way of getting your name on this list is if the organization is Christian in nature. Muslim or Palestinian- just fine. Jewish- acceptable, but not really wanted. Christian- well, they can’t just let anyone the right to associate on campus. NYU hasn’t announced a speaker. My bet is that it will be the “controversial” Derek Jeter. The list of Leftist intolerance marches on.
This year, my alma mater- Rutgers University- the school that forced Condoleeza Rice to withdraw from speaking last year has as its speaker Bill Nye, the Science Guy. When “higher” education accepts Bill Nye over a Condoleeza Rice, then I believe it is safe to say the Left has won but we all ultimately lose.