Interesting piece by Clark Ross, writing at popecenter.org.
You may recall that students at Smith protested the 2014 graduation invitation to Christine Lagarde, the first female to serve as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seemingly on the premise that the IMF has not done enough for the world’s poor. Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College, had to remind us in a piece entitled “Is free speech at risk at our universities?” that free speech is “the foundation of democracy.”
Scripps College refused to permit George Will to speak, even when he was being asked to participate in the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs program, whose very mission is to “bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students” at the all-women’s college. Thus, in word, but unfortunately not in deed, does Scripps maintain a respect for the intellectual civility practiced in the past.
We now have speech codes that prohibit “offensive speech,” codes that can dampen one’s inclination to speak with a less than “politically correct message.” Codes that restrict any speech that might offend some group puts group satisfaction above the free exchange of ideas.
Have people become less humane?
I think not. Rather, a preoccupation with concern for individual civility has been overshadowed by concern for demographic groups and their identity. I certainly believe that a student body more reflective of the population, whether U.S. or global, has intrinsic merit. Serious academic studies show that diverse groups can, in fact, learn better and solve problems more effectively, although increased diversity alone does not guarantee that.
The problem is that campus leaders sometimes act as though they must make a choice between respect for the individual and respect for a group. They choose the group, as Smith and Scripps did by opposing individuals because they might hurt the feelings of the poor and of women.
There was a time, of course, when the very people who now run colleges and universities denounced group-think and identify politics. Their ideals were shaped by the concept of freedom to speak and behave as they wanted to. Their 180-degree turn is a sad commentary of what occurs when intellectual honesty and respect for debate is cast aside in favor of political correctness.