Academic freedom, conformity of opinion, and the student demands

Of the demands being made by protesters in the current wave of unrest on American campuses, some no doubt are well grounded and worth considering. Some of them, on the other hand, challenge academic freedom head on. Some would take control of curriculum and hiring out of the hands of faculty. Some would enforce conformity of thought. Some would attack the rights of dissenters. Some would merely gut the seriousness of the university.

Last night I did a long series of tweets drawing on a website which sympathetically compiles demands from campus protests — — and noting some of the more troublesome instances:

  • From Dartmouth: “All professors will be required to be trained in not only cultural competency but also the importance of social justice in their day-to-day work.”
  • From Wesleyan: “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions, perpetrated by faculty and staff.”
  • From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “White professors must be discouraged from leading and teaching departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred, or enslaved under white supremacy.”
  • From Guilford College: “We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor” in the college paper.

My series drew and continues to draw a strong reaction. Now I’ve done a Storify pulling it together as a single narrative and including some of the responses. Read it here.


  • Wow…..straight out of Stalin’s playbook…..admit your crimes against the revolution, er admit your racism……what’s next, sending the noted professors to the gulag for “reeducation”?

  • Typical. For years the system suppressed minority views with little pushback except from minorities. Now minorities are pushing back and there is outrage.

    I am NOT saying the current situation is good. I am just saying that it is not anything new. The only thing new is that WASPs are no longer in charge of the power structure.

    Do you want to know how to solve this? 1. Stop discriminating. 2. Get rid of the legacy of discrimination.

    It will never happen. Stop with the conservative crocodile tears.

  • Students who think that colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression are exclusively the domain of white people are abysmally ignorant of history. And those who advocate some of the measures above are either ignorant of history or have not learned from it. The Cultural Revolution was tried in China. It was awful. Let’s not try it again.

  • It might be tempting to dismiss these as mere silly, extreme demands, which colleges would never actually adopt. But well-known institutions like Occidental are indeed caving in:

  • Seems like many of these demands are recycled from the Occupy moments. As a side note, I find it amazing that capitalism is considered evil (by these people) when it has dragged more people out of poverty than any other system.

    • ” I find it amazing that capitalism is considered evil (by these people) when it has dragged more people out of poverty than any other system.”

      There is nothing amazing about it once you realize that their goal is not to raise the poor out of poverty, but to drag every one else down into it.

  • “My days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle” – Firefly

  • @Allan–

    You complain about “[suppression of] minority views” condoned by ”WASPs” in the “power structure,” I assume you are talking a)bout campuses (eg their culture and administration). (Otherwise, the subject is too diffuse for debate here).

    Are you talking about McCarthyism and Jim Crow, both largely discredited in campus culture by 1970? Or are you talking about things more recent?

    Are you talking about racial/gender, etc minorities or political minorities?

    Please present some specific right-wing or centrist analogs of what Walter is criticizing here.

    • Good question. I seem to remember the 1950s when conservatives were a bit uptight about allowing blacks into their schools and universities. Racists propagated the idea. Conservatives supported the racists, thinking the progressives were moving too fast (WFB admitted he was mistaken).

      The legacy of racism is not since 1960, it is since 1660. While those campuses have largely begun to no discriminate due to race, they have not done (and society has not done) much to ameliorate the long-lasting legacy of racism. Certainly, you may not discriminate against blacks today. But if you are one of those who is descended from white Americans in the 1860s, you have benefited from the racism of those times.

      I am not proposing that there be mass distribution. However, it is naive to say that the current great landowners in this country and the blue-blood wealthy of the north have not derived their assets in a way that blacks were never given a chance to do.

  • No, I think not. I really don’t care what their “demands” are. Expel them all and let someone who will use the opportunity take their place.

  • If this continues, I see a market created for colleges that explicitly reject such nonsense and offer courses which may lead to success in the real world.

  • […] reactions to my Storify piece on the campus demands: John Leo/Minding the Campus, Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit, Jerry Coyne/Why […]