There exists an idea that ideas matter on a college campus. To be certain, some ideas do matter and they matter a lot. In fact, as I’ve said before, they matter so much that no data are needed and no criticism is accepted......
Other ideas are in flux. One of the more important ideas is that universities should serve as a “marketplace of ideas.” Similar to the real marketplace, ideas would be vetted and the best would survive. The marketplace example is used to justify the need for free speech or, conversely, it serves as a counterpoint to speech and idea suppression. In many ways, it takes an almost neutral position: We shouldn’t shut down voices or ideas because, well, we shouldn’t.
I’ve used the marketplace meme before but I now realize that the meme is simply not enough to counter the shrill and anti-intellectual voices that dominate some academic fields and that have been given legitimacy on many campuses.
Stronger medicine is now necessary.
Calls to squelch speech and ideas on campus should be greeted with immediate condemnation--the type that leads to humiliation and embarrassment. As a general rule, academics are VERY sensitive to perceptions--they care what other academics think of them. This is why so many remain silent as their colleagues rob them of their ability to teach about controversial issues and why so many do nothing as campuses become more totalitarian.
The left has used the same tactic for decades. The’ve destroyed the careers of serious scholars, engaged in smear campaigns against those they disagree with, and have engineered a system that seeks to actively suppress ideas, research, and language.
The marketplace meme is not enough to counter institutionalized oppression because those who support oppressive efforts control the marketplace. They are not going to give up power.
There are several tactics we can use:
First, lawsuits. The organization, FIRE, is now seeking individuals who have been harmed by the horrible leftist show trials that are part of Title IX.
Lawsuits are also cropping up across the country and are making their way through the courts. Some people are winning, some are not.
The problems with litigation are obvious: they are costly, they take forever to wind through the courts, and many people settle. Moreover, any single lawsuit is insufficient to to stop the Title IX travesty.
I do have a suggestion, however: Sue the individuals involved in Title IX decisions. I know, some lawyer is going to tell me that the actions of college administrators working in good faith are exempted. That was certainly the case in one lawsuit that I’m aware of.
Even so, are they exempted from everything? If they violate a student’s civil rights, are they exempted? If they cover up a rape are they exempted? If they engage in efforts that are sexist are they exempted? Maybe, but that is not the point.
Suing them exposes them by name, it exposes their behaviors, exposes their emails, their text messages, their connections, their conversations.....everything. Putting them on the stand, moreover, would expose their ideology......an ideology I’m sure any jury would find odd.
And what if a court finds an individual involved in this mess liable for damages? I can almost guarantee you that colleges will find their backbone again and fix the problem when one of their own suddenly loses his/her house.
Second, we can change the culture. WE can push back, can lead protests, can take to the editorial page, and can expose the fraud that exists. WE can push back on efforts to control, directly or indirectly, what we teach, what we say, who we invite to campus, and we can push back on those groups that make a mockery of tolerance and academic freedom.
Let’s be honest. Faculty have lost all control of our institutions. We like to blame administrators, and they certainly do share in some of the blame, but the truth is we simply gave away our influence. While we were busy conducting research, collecting data, writing grants or articles, our more militant colleagues were busy at work on college and university committees. They were busy changing campus policies that restrict OUR freedoms, they were busy hiring political hacks that now populate many student services areas, and they were busy fashioning the university to reflect their values.......and their values alone.
Too busy and too unconcerned WE act like lost sheep as our universities embarrass us and as our students demand more and more and more.
We also cower in fear at the thought that THEIR gauze will find us. Anecdotally, many faculty regularly confide in me that they are afraid of their students and that they are afraid of what their administration will do to them if they broach certain topics or if a complaint is generated.
FEAR should not be part of the professorial experience, nor should BRAVERY be necessary to stand up for the most fundamental intellectual principles.
It is time for the “silent majority” on our campuses to speak up, to highlight the need for freedom of speech, assembly, and inquiry. It is time we--dare I say--make our campuses great again. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the reference.
Third, universities should adopt the Chicago principles of free inquiry and free speech. They should, in turn, take no position on political matters. Universities should promote freedom of thought, expression, and inquiry and should make all reasonable accommodations for the free exchange of ideas. Consequently, those who violate those norms, who shut down debate, who storm offices and occupy territory, should be removed from campus. Protest is acceptable and necessary but silencing others is not.
Finally, as much as it pains me to suggest this, it is time for state legislatures, boards of trustees, and other external, non-partisan, and groups to examine the operations and behaviors of our universities. I know, I know.....they don’t understand academia......and I agree that external review could be problematic.
That said, our universities are remarkably unaccountable. They take in billions in taxpayer support and tuition.....with almost no strings attached.
Think about these points, even if you disagree in part or totally:
Why should we allow this to continue and why should students and taxpayers be forced to pay for this mess? Universities have taken advantage of their autonomy, have rotted from within, and now need some corrective discipline.
Either we do it.......or a state legislature will.
Pick your poison.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology