Universities are supposed to be a place to exchange ideas — not silence them. Tell that to Vanderbilt, where a hypersensitive student body is demanding the head of a conservative black professor for daring to challenge their opinion on politics. For Dr. Carol Swain, this institutionalized prejudice is nothing new. As an African-American woman, she’s been threatened, protested, and verbally abused for exposing students to other views in one of academia’s elite laboratories of radicalism.
And what are these offensive views? That radical Islam — the same extremism that toppled the World Trade Centers — is a grave threat to the American way of life. Apparently, this offended students’ delicate sensibilities and resulted in a campus-wide firestorm. Now, for suggesting that the country do a better job of monitoring terrorists, the pitchforks are out. The “controversy” has gotten so out of control that a petition to fire Swain has more than 1,500 signatures.
Among other things, students accuse Carol of expressing hatred toward minorities — which is ridiculous because she is a minority! And not just any minority, but a high school dropout and teenage mother who beat the odds to become a highly accomplished professor and public intellectual. Liberals, of course, can’t stand stories like Swain’s or Dr. Ben Carson’s because it pushes back on their narrative that people can’t help themselves — only the government can. “Although Ms. Swain is free to speak openly and have her own views,” the undersigned agree, “no matter how disagreeable they may be, it is generally unprofessional to attach your job title to a channel promoting your personally held beliefs.” (Unless, of course, those beliefs are exceedingly liberal.)
In addition to ousting Swain, Vanderbilt’s students are insisting that the faculty undergo diversity training — which is almost comical, since they’re clearly so diversity-averse.
“I think they’re sad and pathetic,” Carol said, “in the sense that they’re college students, and they should be open to hearing more than one viewpoint.” If Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos’s statement was meant to reassure Swain, it didn’t. After explaining that the opinions of students didn’t necessarily reflect those of the school, he went on to say that speech whose “sole purpose or effect is to discriminate, stigmatize, retaliate, offend, foment hatred or violence, or cause harm has no place in this university.”
Interestingly, the conflict comes at a time when even far-Left institutions are starting to question the course of rabid liberalism. In a fascinating article from The Atlantic this fall called “The Coddling of the American Mind,” authors talk about the “strange thing” happening on college campuses. “In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like… A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”
Unfortunately, this is all the result of modern child-centric parenting, whose everybody-gets-a-trophy philosophy is giving us a generation of thin-skinned, self-entitled whines. At one time, academic freedom meant something. These days, even “progressive” professors are taking pseudonyms to pen articles like, “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.” Like us, he wonders, what’s the point of spoon-feeding them more intolerance? So they become more deeply entrenched in their hostility toward other views?
As Peter Kiersanow wrote in his “Campus Lunacy Spreads” piece in NRO, “Heaven (are we allowed to say that?) forbid any precious dears be exposed to viewpoints different from inspected, tested, and approved progressive orthodoxy. They might have to suffer the inconvenience and indignity of thinking.” Here’s the scary thing: these students, the same ones calling for censorship, are the so-called future leaders of America.
Courageous men and women like Carol Swain are all that’s standing between the complete takeover of higher education as we know it. Support her by contacting the Vanderbilt Board of Trustees and encouraging them to take immediate steps to create a welcoming environment for orthodox Christians and Jews, political and social conservatives, and anyone else who holds traditional views.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.