Monday, August 7, 2017

Diversity vs. Free Speech by ROBERT WEISSBERG

A student screamed at Yale faculty member Nicholas Christakis (left), who is married to Erika after he said he would not stop people from wearing offensive Halloween costumes (2016). Credit: DailyMail/The Fire
Free speech is not doing particularly well on today’s college campuses. The good news is that resistance to the little commissars is mobilizing; the bad news is that this “resistance” consists almost entirely of abstract scholarly essays or grandiloquent soapbox speeches (see here, for example). Indeed, these pontifications have reached industrial scale proportions and scarcely a day passes without me personally encountering boilerplate-like arguments about how intellectual life can flourish only with open debate, why democracy requires tolerating the most noxious views, how an inclusive public forum is vital to solving our current tribulations and on and on.
Great stuff but, unfortunately, all a waste of time. Hard to imagine the opponents of intellectual honesty being swayed by these erudite arguments even if they encountered them. I also seriously doubt that they are even aware of their existence. This is therapeutic, preaching-to- the-choir.
What can be done? Let me suggest that this war against the barbarians is largely misdirected. To be blunt, an unspeakable link exists between the smothering of campus free speech and its current obsession with upping racial diversity.
Begin with a simple question: why now? Surely the social sciences and humanities faculty has been overwhelmingly Left for decades but these ideological leanings never manifested themselves in demands for speech codes, safe spaces, mandatory sensitivity training, persecution of those guilty of micro-aggressions, and cleansing the campus of toxic whiteness.
What has changed is the burgeoning number of African American on campus (“critical mass”) who have been socialized to embrace political activism—marches, demonstration, occupying administrative offices, even manufacturing bogus hate crimes—as the all-purpose solution to whatever ails them. To make matters worse, these students are forever angry, veer toward paranoia, and are exasperated over what they see as the lack of racial progress. Most are in over their heads academically, genuinely puzzled why, for example, they cannot ace Organic Chemistry. Might it be because the classroom building is named after a slave-owner? Or the instructor sub-consciously devalues black contributions to science? That they hold an exaggerated view of their intellectual ability only exacerbates the problem. Now add a dollop of well-paid administrators ( “Dean of Diversity and Inclusion”) who put bread on their tables by keeping campus race relations simmering just below the boiling point. And, of the utmost importance, they enjoy a well-deserved reputation for solving their tribulations, real and imagined, by threats of violence
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