Liberal Tyranny on College Campuses
A Report from the Field
by David Ortiz
Here are five of the most egregious examples of liberal intolerance.
Stanford University: “A Tax on Free Speech”
In late February, the Stanford Anscombe Society, a university-recognized student group dedicated to defending a traditional understanding of marriage, appealed to the Graduate Student Council for funds toward a conference. The Anscombe Society reported that the conference would feature “nationally renowned speakers such as Ryan T. Anderson, Sherif Girgis, Professor Robert Oscar Lopez, and Professor J. Budziszewski” to “educate attendees on the public policy issues” driving the marriage debate.
The student council agreed to contribute $600. Simple enough—until the campus LGBTQ community launched protests against the Anscombe Society’s “hate speech.”
Within a week, the student council revoked the funding. Worse, the university suddenly required this officially recognized club to pay a $5,600 “security fee”—you know, to protect the student body against those violent professors and scholars.
The Anscombe Society responded in writing to Provost John W. Etchemendy, calling the onerous fee “a tax on free speech.” The story went national—and in the face of harsh public criticism, the administration relented. The director of student activities and leadership e-mailed to say that the university had “found more funds” to pay for conference security.
The conference proceeded in early April without incident. This case ended up being a victory for intellectual freedom against liberal intolerance—but only because national publications and organizations shone a light on Stanford’s kowtowing to radical protesters.
Azusa Pacific University: Don’t Hurt Anyone’s Feelings!
There was no such happy ending at Azusa Pacific University.
For months the well-known scholar Charles Murray had been scheduled to speak at Azusa Pacific about his new book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. But at the last minute, university president Jon Wallace rescinded the invitation, citing fears that Murray’s presence would hurt “our faculty and students of color.”
Despite holding degrees from Harvard and MIT and having established himself as one of America’s most influential public intellectuals, Murray is still haunted in liberal circles by the controversy surrounding his 1994 book The Bell Curve, which analyzed the role of IQ in shaping class structure in America.
Azusa Pacific apparently doesn’t think too highly of its students. Instead of welcoming conversation with a leading scholar and allowing students to make up their own minds, the administration simply excluded views that could possibly hurt some people’s feelings.
So much for intellectual diversity. As Murray put it in an open letter to the university’s students, “Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.”
University of Colorado Boulder: Never Mind about Intellectual Diversity
Perhaps not surprisingly, Steven Hayward came under fire from Boulder students and faculty within months of becoming the university’s first visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy.
The chairman of the Faculty Assembly, student government leaders, and the student newspaper all attacked Hayward for having the nerve to critique a report about a supposedly racist and sexist climate in Boulder’s philosophy department, and for challenging liberal gender ideology more broadly. The Faculty Assembly chair said Hayward’s comments bordered on “hate speech,” while the Colorado Daily concluded, “Bigotry is not diversity.”
The irony here is that the university created the conservative scholar position specifically to generate greater intellectual diversity on campus. But Hayward was attacked as soon as he said something that challenged liberal orthodoxy. Sometimes it seems the only diversity liberalism can handle is disagreement among queer-theory Marxists over the proper amount of foam in a Starbucks cappuccino.
Brandeis University: Commencement Crusading
Brandeis University invited prominent women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be its 2014 commencement speaker. But in the spring the university rescinded its invitation.
Her offense? Daring to critique radical Islam for its history of violence and bigotry against women. Never mind that Hirsi Ali has worked tirelessly on behalf of women’s rights in Muslim countries, for which Time magazine named her one of the world’s hundred most influential people in 2005; or that she was forced to flee the Netherlands after Muslim fundamentalists murdered Theo van Gogh, her collaborator on a film that highlighted radical Islamic violence toward women; or that the murderers pinned a death threat against Hirsi Ali on Van Gogh’s corpse; or that she has lived under a fatwa ever since.
None of that mattered to the Brandeis student leaders and more than seventy-five professors who signed the petition that led the administration to withdraw Hirsi Ali’s invitation. “Islamophobia” was a simple enough reason to prevent the Brandeis community from hearing from an accomplished figure with a fascinating story and keen insights.
Rutgers University: The Triumph of the Left
In an odd twist, black women have been two of the most prominent victims of recent liberal attacks on conservatives. While Brandeis was banning Hirsi Ali, Rutgers campus radicals were campaigning to block former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice from addressing graduates and receiving an honorary degree.
The pressure campaign worked. After weeks of protests and character assassination—student protesters said that awarding her an honorary degree amounted to “encouraging and perpetuating a world that justifies torture and debases humanity”—Rice declined Rutgers’s invitation.
When Rice stepped aside, a leader of the student protesters took to the Huffington Post to celebrate their success in “defying” the Rutgers administration and forcing the former secretary of state to “back down.” Citing successful protests against conservatives on other campuses—including the Brandeis campaign against Ayaan Hirsi Ali—the Rutgers student declared, “This is our generation of young people sending a clear and strong message that racism, bigotry, civil and human rights violations receive no honor from us.”
When standing up to the forces of “racism” and “bigotry,” the Left won’t tolerate even a figure as impressive as Condoleezza Rice, who rose from segregation in Alabama to reach the highest levels of government and academia.
These examples only hint at the growing liberal intolerance on college campuses. The Hirsi Ali and Rice episodes were not isolated incidents: left-wing protesters at Haverford College and Smith College forced two other “controversial” conservative figures to withdraw as commencement speakers—former Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, respectively. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg—hardly anyone’s idea of a conservative—rightly condemned these actions during his own commencement address at Harvard, saying, “In each case, liberals silenced a voice—and denied an honorary degree—to individuals they deemed politically objectionable. That is an outrage and we must not let it continue.”
But it does continue. Practically every week we learn of new campus outrages. The pattern is clear: tolerance extends only as far as liberals permit. Opinions, actions, or thoughts that differ from the prevailing liberal orthodoxy are not merely wrong but even hateful and bigoted. And bigotry has no rights.