A new initiative from Jonathan Haidt’s Heterodox Academy is providing students with the blueprint on how to increase viewpoint diversity on their campuses.
Heterodox Academy is a project started by NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt in order to encourage free inquiry and viewpoint diversity on college campuses. It sports a roster of liberal, conservative, and libertarian professors from across the country.
Although they come from varying political persuasions and different fields of study, the “faculty” at Heterodox Academy are united by the belief that “university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other.” Each roster member was asked to sign a pledge in which they affirmed their belief that the current trends towards homogenous academic fields are harmful to educational and institutional growth: “I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”
Recently, Heterodox Academy introduced a resolution for students to propose to university administrators that would create an environment that better allows for a marketplace of ideas. “If you would like to reduce political orthodoxy at your school, then please consider introducing a resolution to your student government to declare your school a ‘Heterodox University,’” the website states in announcing the initiative. “Exposure to a diversity of viewpoints (i.e., heterodoxy) is the best way to expand your mind and improve your ability to deal with the politically diverse world you’ll find after graduation.”
The entirety of Heterodox Academy’s resolution can be read below:
At [your school’s name], we know that exposure to diversity broadens our minds and prepares us for citizenship in a diverse democratic society. Research shows that the kind of diversity that most improves the quality and creativity of thinking is viewpoint diversity. When everyone thinks alike, there is a danger of groupthink, prejudice, dogmatism, and orthodoxy. People in the majority benefit from interacting with individuals who see things differently.
At a time when American democracy is polarizing into antagonistic camps and informational bubbles, many colleges and universities are becoming more intellectually and politically homogeneous. Orthodoxies arise, dissent is punished, and quality declines. We do not want that to happen in our community.
We therefore welcome heterodoxy, meaning that we want to support those within our community who hold dissenting or minority viewpoints; we want them to express themselves freely and without fear. We value viewpoint diversity not merely out of compassion for those in the minority but also because such diversity helps us all to develop skills essential for life after graduation, including the ability to judge the quality of ideas for ourselves, the ability to formulate arguments against ideas we reject, and the ability to live and work amicably alongside those whose ideas and values we do not share.
Therefore, be it resolved that [your school] is a Heterodox University
We make the following specific requests to the faculty and administration:
1) Adopt the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression
A clear way for the university to show commitment to viewpoint diversity is by adopting the University of Chicago’s Principles on Freedom of Expression, which states in part:
The University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.
We request that the Faculty Senate endorse the “Chicago Principles” as official university policy.
2) Implement a non-obstruction policy for protests
We support the right of all students to protest against speakers and writers with whom they disagree, but we ask that protests be done in a way that does not deprive other students of their rights to speak and hear. When members of our community shout down a speaker, or take other actions intended to make it more difficult for a speaker to speak or for an audience to hear, they are practicing obstruction, censorship, and sometimes intimidation, not free speech. Such practices have no place in any academic community. We request that the university formulate and enforce a non-obstruction policy. As stated in the Chicago Principles: “The University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”
3) Improve viewpoint diversity
We request that the university include viewpoint diversity, and particularly political diversity, in its diversity policies and in its efforts to diversify the faculty and the curriculum. We want to encounter a range of viewpoints in the classroom, just as we will after we graduate.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org