How to Stop the Censoring Mobs on Campus

After the protests at the University of Missouri, enrollment dropped by 13 percent.

Stanley Kurtz has laid out an interesting proposal for stopping once and for all the shutdowns and hecklers and mobs that have increasingly plagued higher education in recent years. It’s called the Intellectual Diversity Act, and it has a simple provision. The law, as passed by state legislatures, will direct public colleges and universities to create an Office of Public Policy Events that will do two things.

One, it will keep a record of all extracurricular events that bear upon matters of public policy. The record-keeping will be especially sensitive to viewpoint diversity. Is the full range of public opinion represented in a school’s annual slate of offerings? We know the answer, of course. The record will be made available to the public and shown to the school’s trustees and state legislators as well.

The other task for the Office will be to remedy the current problem. It will “arrange for debates, panel discussions, and individual lectures from diverse viewpoints on current public-policy disputes.

[The Cult of Diversity Shows Its True Face]

The assumption is that students who have swallowed the social justice line proceed to shout down conservative speakers because they haven’t been exposed to them often enough. The campus is so left-leaning that the rare appearance of a right-leaning lecturer or the mounting of a panel on a controversial topic that gives conservative positions equal time strikes them as not just wrong but abnormal. If they knew that right-of-center views were a regular part of a school’s events when it comes to policy discussions outside of class, they couldn’t assume that such things don’t belong on campus and may be chased away. They would realize that today’s successful shout-down wouldn’t stop further conservatives from coming to campus.

The Office of Public Policy Events would guarantee it. Administrators would be prevented from indulging the disrupters, nor could they cite security reasons in the course of canceling events. State legislators wouldn’t like that, and trustees wouldn’t, either. The publicity would pressure the legislators to pressure the school, and punishments of the disrupters would follow—as it should. In fact, the Office would give school leaders more backbone. To student protesters who demand “protection” from a triggering speaker, school leaders may say, “There’s nothing I can do about it. We are bound by the state to go through with the event. I’m sorry.”

[Heather Mac Donald: In the Crosshairs of a Progressive Campaign]

It is important to note, too, that the Office doesn’t touch what professors do in the classroom. The formal curriculum remains untouched. The proposal aims only at open campus events. Academic freedom is preserved.

It is hard to imagine any reasonable objection to such a proposal. Professors who decry such initiatives as a form of political interference in academic matters have long discredited themselves on the issue. They are the ones most responsible for having manufactured the biased and irrational atmosphere in the first place. Besides, why should teachers disallow a richer intellectual climate from forming? If they do, they are proselytizers, not instructors?

And school leaders should welcome the Office of Public Policy Events for exactly the reason noted above. It will take the delicate and sometimes embarrassing issue of campus censorship out of their hands. Our sense is that college presidents and provosts and deans hate to see trouble brewing. They may be coming to realize, too, that conceding to disrupters doesn’t make them less disruptive. It emboldens them.

So does the continued disappearance of conservative ideas from the campus climate. We should realize by now that another episode of heckling, another case of suppression, a conservative student group shunned by the student government, a professor ranting about President Trump in the classroom . . . they won’t stop just because the cases get reported in the press. The perpetrators don’t care about bad publicity. On the contrary, it flatters them, especially if they find that they’ve escaped punishment. It’s time to try plans such as Kurtz’s and see what happens.


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

19 thoughts on “How to Stop the Censoring Mobs on Campus

  1. If you have a rule, you can assume a pretty good percentage of voluntary compliance. But at some point, somebody is going to have to enforce the rule. I just can’t see naturally left-leaning colleges equitably enforcing this rule. Ain’t gonna happen.

  2. It was fairly effective when the Black students showed up with rifles at Cornell.

    Do I approve of that? No! Absolutely not!

    But it did work????


  3. I’m in favor of this.
    Altho it seems highly unlikely to actually work — the effort to get it passes and the slightly more public debate about it is important. Intellectual Diversity is the only kind that is really needed — for an intellectual outcome. (For social status outcome, other tribal identities might well be more important.)

    The “open secret” of colleges discriminating against hiring Republicans is the real policy that needs to change. By colleges which do this discrimination to lose their tax-advantages.

    1. The “open secret” of colleges discriminating against hiring Republicans is the real policy that needs to change.

      This is the point I keep making about “personnel being policy” — nothing is going to change in the echo chamber until there are new voices in academia — or in whatever replaces academia.

      The problem with going with the Democrat/Republican axis is that the colleges are actually discriminating against anyone to the political right of Vladimir Lenin, and that most of the “tenured radicals” are so far left that they really aren’t even Democrats.

      1. “Are so far left that they really aren’t Democrats.” No, they are communists and their beliefs are right in line with Tom Perez, Keith Ellison, Bernie Sanders, AOC, Howard Dean, Barack Obama. I think you have an out-of-dated view of the democrat party.

  4. I don’t know. It sounds like a pretty sterile “solution” to me. The resulting “events” (lectures, etc.) would likely be pretty dismal. Who would host them? The Orwellian “Office of Public Policy Events”? As for the Officer giving the university administration backbone, first of all, is the president then subservient to the head of the Office? Why can’t the trustees or legislature give backbone? Isn’t the problem that these people fail to back the administrators when the latter do the right thing and things get out of hand? Isn’t it the trustees and legislators who are spineless?

    As the author says, maybe some state should try it. It won’t be my deeply blue state, though.

  5. “Is the full range of public opinion represented in a school’s annual slate of offerings?”

    The problem is that they don’t consider our viewpoints to even be viewpoints, to even exist, and how do you include something which does not exist?

    Remember too that they haven’t given up on speech codes. After the fiat (banned words) codes were thrown out in the 1990’s, they went to the harassment-based codes, and as those were largely found to be ineffective, they now have adopted the Stazi approach of Zersetzung. As an exasperated undergraduate once told me, “they consider all conservatives to be crazy” — and the ravings of lunatics do not constitute viewpoints worthy of discussion.

    Remember too that they only consider “good” speech to be speech — one has to understand Critical Legal Theory (or Puritan Theology) to understand this belief. They honestly believe that permitting “bad” speech to be heard is a public health hazard as it inevitably will infect (and destroy) all who hear it. It’s almost a cross between Plato’s Cave and the Puritan belief that the Devil is always lurking and actively conspiring to steal souls.

    Hence, they would argue that the full range of public opinion is already being expressed on campus. And they honestly believe this….

    Remember three other things — first, these disruptions would not be occurring without support from key persons who hold power and influence in the university community. Collectively, the tenured radical faculty and union-protected staff have far more power than any dean or campus president — and they are just making that known.

    These disruptions are nothing more than Pavlovian punishments, classical conditioning intended to “teach” the administrators not to permit “hate speech” on campus — and they need to be viewed as such.

    Second, the thugs who disrupt these events are doing it for personal gain & glory. There are tangible rewards they enjoy for participating — the faculty and staff who are implicitly (often explicitly) encouraging this behavior are gatekeepers to not just grades but things like choice internships, placements, and letters of reference. The ticket to the “good life” — the capitalist life, and the ultimate irony is that the Antafa folk don’t even realize that.

    And third, any university that wanted to put an end to this thuggery could do so if it wanted to. All you have to do is expel everyone involved, and then tell everyone that you did it. That works.

    It’s why there were no riots in Boston or Amherst after the Patriots won the Superbowl, and the issue is that these institutions don’t want to prevent similar rioting when unpopular speakers come to campus. Because, as they see it, the speaker is the problem — the rioting a natural, legitimate, (and encouraged) response.

  6. The proposal is totally absurd–it merely serves to further institutionalize partisan left-right politics as a central role of college life. There was a time when college was about knowledge acquisition, and subject-matter mastery, in an oasis away from the hubbub of day-to-day distractions, trivia and frivolities.

    There also was a time when academics were the focus of university life, while the idea of leisure-time activities devoted to politics and activism was absurd. For many, having a part-time job was paramount. Now, higher education resembles high school, with its emphasis on interactive socialization, with any learning is an accidental and incidental byproduct.

  7. Some legal-schmegal, legislative measure of this nature seems imperative. Along with mandates for genuine diversity –as distinct from ranting ideologues’ brownshirt/red-armband variety– it would be wise to include disincentives in the form of corporate and monetary damages/penalties, levied on Corporate State/Islamo-fascist individuals as well as institutions.

    That and Title IX reforms are crucial. How else redress insular and ossified Campus Administrations’ extreme feministical imbalances, both in outlook and personnel, that for three decades have degraded “higher education” to gutter-ball tourneys blasting all civics studies, “humane letters”, five thousand years of Western history, Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian language, law, and literature, at their very root?

  8. “There aught to be a law…”
    So the problem of the progressive statist, personified by higher education is to be solved with government intervention? Perhaps this is a good example of fighting fire with fire.
    How about we just remove 75% of federal funding from higher education inc.? Why should taxpayers pay for the Gramscian indoctrination of our youth?

    1. As to “fighting fire with fire”, it actually works (if done right).

      Any large fire is sending up a *lot* of hot air & smoke, with air rushing in from the perimeter to fill this vacuum. If you light small fires on the perimeter, they will be drawn in by the partial vacuum of the fire — when the two fires meet, everything is already burnt and hence (hopefully) the big fire goes out.

  9. Love Stanley Kurtz. However, while this proposal is overall good, I strongly object to the provision that will have this Office of Public Policy Events itself arranging events. No. Most of the OPPE’s that would come into existnce would be staffed by the left-leaning technocrat class that have taken over higher ed. Their idea of intellectual diversity would be something like, “A panel on the Trump years should contain 1.) a rabid leftist, 2.) a wishy-washy liberal, 3.) Bill Kristol.” That is not speculation–I have witnessed panels like this put together by academics trying their blessed best to “bridge the divides” as they understand them.
    More generally, no more empowering of admins on campus.
    More seriously, this is a single band-aid on a chronically bleeding/diseased monster–it keeps us from admitting that center-right Americans will have to start new schools and totally abandon 90-95% of the existing ones.

  10. The problem here is that you’re giving the professors/administration/students way too much credit. They don’t want a civilized debate, or to have both sides presented fairly, or to allow for an academic discourse to take place. In their minds, conservative views are not worth hearing and do not deserve a platform, period. That’s the whole point of this exercise is censorship. They don’t care about your perspective or your argument or your point of view. In their minds, you and you values and your policies are evil. The fact that you still believe they can be swayed by the ideals of traditional academic pursuit is scary.

    1. It’s not just that they consider our views evil, a lot of them would kill us if they thought they could get away with it. That should scare any rational person.

      And the flip side is that they think that we would kill them…..

  11. It is difficult for me to accept that Bauerlein and the others who write on this site really believe that the answer to the Left’s conquest of our universities is. . . .more bureaucracy.! Multiplying bureaucratic entities: what would the great Ockham say? What would Hippocrates say to the practice of dosing the patient with one toxin, then with another when the side effects of the first manifested, then with a third when the side effects of the second manifested, ad infinitum (and nauseam)?

    Speaking of conquest, aren’t Kurtz and Bauerlein overlooking Conquest’s Second and Third Laws here? I think they are.

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