Bucknell University faculty dismissed a proposal to adopt an academic freedom of expression statement at a faculty meeting that took place on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, five Bucknell faculty members proposed a bill to adopt a modified version of the popular University of Chicago Freedom of Expression statement that protects faculty and student’s right to freedom of expression. Similar statements have already been adopted at several prestigious American universities such as Princeton, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Vanderbilt.
In a vote, the Bucknell faculty outright rejected a motion that proposed a review of the university’s current policies regarding academic freedom.
A second motion, which would have adopted a modified version of the Chicago Freedom of Expression statement, was “tabled” by a faculty vote, after a professor allegedly expressed concern that a rejection of the proposal would lead to “propaganda media” reporting that the Bucknell faculty is against freedom of expression.
Another faculty member from the physics department allegedly expressed concern that establishing a commitment to academic freedom would run the risk of a Young Earth Creationist taking his classroom discussion hostage.
The statement would have affirmed the university’s commitment to free and open inquiry, and protected all members of the Bucknell community in their right to express themselves, no matter how controversial their opinions. The bill would have also restricted the university’s ability to shield students from controversial perspectives.
The faculty affirms that as an institution of higher education, the University should be committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, guaranteeing all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak,write, listen, challenge, and learn. The University should fully respect and support the freedom of all members of the University community to discuss any problem that presents itself.
Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it should not be the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University should greatly value civility, and although all members of the University community should share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate ofmutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect should not be used as a justification for closing offdiscussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
Speaking to Breitbart News, Bucknell alumnus and Political Science Professor Chris Ellis, who was one of the five sponsors of the academic freedom bill, expressed his concerns over what he considered to be the faculty’s lack of willingness to seriously consider the proposal.
“We are deciding what we are as a university. We should be able to engage in the same critical thinking processes that we claim to ask of our students,” he said.
“I think it is important for universities to debate and ultimately articulate what their values are when it comes to free expression and intellectual inquiry when balanced against other aims of our university like inclusivity, and the fact that we didn’t have that debate is troubling to me,” he added.
“I think it’s fundamentally important for universities to understand where they fit in the current political environment and at least in general terms express what sorts of intellectual and political debates are legitimate in the sphere of the university.”
Ellis added that there are consequences to such ideological insulation: those who hold the dominant perspective grow less accepting of alternative viewpoints.
“Most political science research shows that when one political perspective takes over a space, what happens is that discourse becomes more extreme, two it becomes less accepting of viewpoints that challenge the dominant view, and three, discourse becomes less grounded in logical and reasoned arguments, and we begin to start from assumptions that certain positions are correct. We start to question if we should let anyone let question the dominant view.”
“This happens outside of academia as well,” Ellis added. “Anytime a like-minded group takes control of a specific sphere, what happens is discourse becomes more extreme and less rational and less accepting of alternative points of view. We just happen to see it manifest itself in the American academy. Social psychologists have been suggesting this for many years.”
Breitbart News has reported on many instances of anti-intellectualism and political correctness at Bucknell University. Frequent Fox News guest and Bucknell alumnus Michael Malice expressed on a Breitbart podcast that “going to Bucknell was the worst decision of his life,” claiming that students and faculty rarely engaged with ideas that conflicted with their own during his time at the university. Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos faced unusual restrictions on an event at Bucknell University that took place in February 2016.
Administrators refused to allow students to engage with Yiannopoulos directly, instead choosing to force them to write their questions on an index card, which were read by a moderator. He was not allowed to stay in the school’s on-campus residence for guest speakers and was escorted off-campus by university security immediately following the conclusion of his event before he would have been able to speak with students who wished to engage with him.
In early 2017, Bucknell Professor Marcellus Andrews called for students to engage in acts of retribution against members of the Bucknell conservative and libertarian political clubs, who he called “racists and fascists,” for their decision to associate with Yiannopoulos. Administrators refused to even call Andrews’ conduct “inappropriate” after repeated inquiries.
Despite these absurdities, the Bucknell community often welcomes the presence of radical and even violent left-wing ideology. Controversial Christian minister and Black Lives Matter activist Nyle Fort, who has argued that “under conditions of white supremacist terror, revolutionary violence can be an expression of Christian love,” has visited campus twice since January 2016. Bucknell students are often assigned controversial texts, such as George Sorel’s “Reflections on Violence,” a book which argues that violence can save the world from barbarism and that violence used for the purpose of moving towards a classless society in the syndicalist/Marxist tradition is not unethical.
Tuesday’s meeting agenda can be read in its entirety below:
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org