Academia has always suffered from an overweening tendency toward either stultifying authoritarianism or slavish devotion to ideology.
In order to preserve “independence” professors at higher education centers gained tenure. This was, in theory, to insulate them from being punished for teaching truth that the authorities declared unacceptable and to maintain the ideal that universities were the bastions of free thought and discovery.
It is a nice sounding theory – but it does not measure up in the real world.
What it engenders is an almost feudal system where people desperately try to fit in and to be “acceptable” and once there do their very best to hang on to their “living”. In return the system gives them their security.
How successful is this system in the present?
Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Ohio. It has been around since 1833. For most of its history it seems to have been a fairly innocuous and un-influential college. In 2016 that changed, dramatically. A student from Oberlin College attempted to shoplift bottles of wine from a well known and well respected family store next to the Campus. A store which had a close connection to the College and which had been around for a century. The student was confronted by a employee – a member of he family that owns the store a Mr Allyn Gibson.
There was an altercation between Mr Gibson and the student, a Mr J Aladin, outside the store and two friends of Mr Aladin joined in the brouhaha. All three were subsequently arrested. All three later pleaded guilty to various misdemeanor offenses along with the guilty please can statements from the culprits admitting that Mr Gibson had been justified in attempting to detain the thief and that there had been no “racial motivation”.
Those are the adjudicated facts of the case.
Now – how did that go from being a minor shoplifting beef to Oberlin College being on the receiving end of $33 millions dollar judgement for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress in a civil suit filed by the bakery?
The incident itself generated a hysterical backlash among the student body of the college who were bound and determined to call it racist and to leading to the distribution of leaflets accusing Gibsons store of being racist and urging a boycott.
The College canceled a longstanding business order it had had with Gibsons for years.
In the protests that followed not only were students there but also members of the faculty. In court the plaintiffs accused the faculty of giving students course credit for attending the protests. The college attempted to defend itself by claiming that it was not responsible for the hate speech of the students. But it seems that the jury did not believe them and the college was pounded first with the damages from the case itself and then by the punitive damages delivered a day later.
Not once during the time of the incident, the lead up to the case and even after the verdicts came down, did the College ever look to examine and change it’s own attitudes and actions. Indeed the College is still posturing about how they are amazed that they could be held liable for the vicious attacks by their students on a small family business that happened while their staff were present and which their faculty had supported.
Does this sound like a healthy environment for young minds?
South Dakota just passed legislation reminding State Universities that they cannot abridge Freedom of Speech. Now how sad has it become that STATE institutions need to be reminded that the Bill of Rights is not optional?
Here is a link to a long article about Freedom of Speech and ideas on college campus in the USA
How about the second amendment?
These states allow concealed carry on campus:
These states leave it up to the schools:
Finally, here are the states that do not allow the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses:
Academia has failed in its duty to be a place that treasures embraces and protects freedom of expression and of ideas. It has, instead, elected to become an enabling agent for those who wish to shut up and shut out the voices and viewpoints they dislike.
It is time, way beyond time, for State Universities and Colleges and ANY Universities or educational institutions that receive federal grants or federal dollars to be held accountable to their duty to freedom of expression and of ideas. Evidence of a failure to do so should lead to immediate suspension of all financial supports and aid from the government. Period.