What is it about liberals that makes them so afraid of free speech, free thought and free expression of ideas, especially on college campuses?
You may have heard about the absolute terror which faculty and students at Rutgers University greeted the news that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been chosen as the commencement speaker at this May’s graduation ceremony.
Professors at both of the college’s campuses voted to ask the university to disinvite Rice because of her role in the Iraq War, naming her a “war criminal” for her role in the George W. Bush administration.
Fortunately, Rutgers President Robert Barchi politely declined the request, noting that “These are the kinds of exchanges that every great university welcomes. Like all vibrant intellectual communities, Rutgers can thrive only when it vigorously defends the free exchange of ideas in an environment of civil discourse.”
Apparently, Barchi didn’t get the memo that the free exchange of ideas in modern America should only include ideas which have been given the stamp of approval by liberals. If it slams America, conservatives or Republicans, you can pretty much say anything you want. If it promotes the Constitution, self-determination, free-market capitalism or the American Transcendental ideal of self-reliance, then be prepared to be called a war criminal, racist or worse.
Conservatives, meanwhile, seem to be able to cope with the idea that liberals have differing opinions without trying to burn them at the academic stake. Take, for instance, the March 7 announcement that Montana State University in Bozeman would be awarding an honorary doctorate to Donna Shalala, who like Rice was a Cabinet secretary who served with distinction.
The only difference was that Shalala served under Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Washington Post has declared her “one of the most controversial Clinton Cabinet nominees” and “one who had been branded by critics as being too liberal and politically correct.”
So when conservative Montana heard that Shalala was going to be honored by MSU, did they light torches and pick up their pitchforks to get her banned from campus? Not hardly.
In fact, the news was greeted with a yawn, as it should be. She is an accomplished woman, who in addition to her tenure as secretary of health and human services for the entirety of Clinton’s two terms, has also been president of Hunter College, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and for the past 13 years, president of the University of Miami. Whatever you think of her politics — and I think very little of them — there is absolutely no reason why she should not be granted an honorary doctorate in nursing by Montana State University. Let her have her degree and go back to Miami.
But I wonder what Shalala would say if she were asked her opinion of the Rutgers controversy? This, after all, is a woman, who during her tenure at the University of Wisconsin devised a hate-speech code called “Design for Diversity” that was supposed to punish people for making “discriminatory comments” against other people and thus creating “an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment for education, university-related work, or other university-authorized activity.”
Can we all agree that discriminatory comments were made against Condi Rice that undoubtedly created a hostile and demeaning environment for the university-authorized activity of a commencement ceremony? But somehow I doubt that Shalala will be coming to the defense of Rice, who despite being black does not represent the kind of diversity that liberals want to protect since she is also a Republican.
And if you thought that the Rutgers incident merely represents the kind of close-minded political correctness that is found on left-wing East Coast college campuses, guess again. Last week, the Montana Standard in Butte reported that faculty and students at down-home Montana Tech plan an “unprecedented boycott of the university’s spring commencement” in protest of the choice of a conservative couple from Bozeman as the featured speakers.
Greg and Susan Gianforte are co-founders of RightNow Technologies, the software engineering company based in Bozeman which sold in 2012 for $1.5 billion. Inviting them to speak at Montana Tech is a no-brainer because they are living the dream of every engineering student in the world: Take a great idea and turn it into a great venture.
But that’s not good enough for the disgruntled faculty and students at Montana Tech, who don’t care for the fact that the Gianfortes are also outspoken defenders of their Christian faith and to a lesser extent their conservative political philosophy. The couple has donated money to faith-based charities, including (according to their critics) a Glendive dinosaur museum that promotes creationism.
Apparently, the faculty doesn’t see a place for fundamental Christian beliefs in a college that teaches science. How they square that conclusion with the necessity of teaching Newtonian physics, I don’t know. Maybe they never heard that Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics, was a dedicated Christian who was himself a noted creationist.
I suppose after they finish their campaign to ban the Gianfortes from campus, they can dedicate themselves to writing Newton out of their science textbooks.
Fortunately, the chancellor of Montana Tech, Don Blackketter, takes a similar view of the protests as his counterpart at Rutgers.
“It’s important to remember what grad commencement is all about,” he told the Montana Standard. “It’s not political agendas or religious beliefs; it’s about sending the graduates off into the world after they’ve had great accomplishments.”
Let’s hope that the graduates do not learn from their liberal faculty members that one of those great accomplishments is shutting down free speech.