An editorial in USA Today argues that increasingly spineless university administrators, rather than self-righteous students, are to blame for tension and censorship on college campuses.
Rob Montz, a 2005 graduate of Brown University and a documentary filmmaker, penned the editorial for USA Today in which he claimed that college students throughout American history have always had an aura of self-righteousness. Montz argues that the increased level of chaos on college campuses is a result of university administrators who “bend to their will.”
Montz claims that in his time at Brown University he was able to have deep, open conversations about important and controversial topics such as race, class, and gender. Despite this being the environment at Brown 15 years ago, Montz believes that Brown administrators are suffocating stimulating conversations, and students feel afraid to be wrong about topics that have been deemed sensitive by the administrators and students who are the most concerned with social justice.
Such conversations, though, depend on a shared commitment to intellectual openness — and the kind of activism infecting Brown and other campuses all over the country explicitly rejects the value of such openness. Students are on a hair-trigger, eager to turn minor slights into examples of “structural” oppression and assume nefarious motives in critics. They regularly deploy an insidious rhetorical sleight-of-hand that equates the mental discomfort of hearing adverse opinions with real, physical violence. Those who question affirmative action, rape culture or other planks of the prevailing campus orthodoxy aren’t just wrong; they’re making the campus “unsafe.”
These tactics don’t spark conversation. They choke it off. And left unchecked, the activists peddling them will continue to degrade the campus climate President Paxson and other college administrators claim to value.
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