Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal:
The deadline for high school seniors to pick a college is just days away. Many will decide based on the school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking. Even more important, however, is checking the college or university’s commitment to free speech.
Parents, don’t let your children grow up to be snowflakes.
As I watched the University of California at Berkeley disgrace itself over whether it would allow Ann Coulter to speak to its students, I wondered why any parent would send their child to this once great university that has become a symbol of intolerance.
Conservative student clubs had invited Coulter to speak at Berkeley. Fearing a reprise of the riot that ensued when Milo Yiannopoulos was to speak on campus a few months ago, Berkeley rescinded Coulter’s invitation, citing safety concerns. Some students, it seems, are so enraged by Coulter’s and Milo’s ideas that their hecklers’ veto turns violent. Berkeley has since reinvited her to speak during the “dead week” when students are less likely to attend; Coulter declined the new date.
The cost for non-Californians to attend Berkeley: $61,654 a year; in-state is $34,972.
At Middlebury College in Vermont in March, liberals shouted down political scientist Charles Murray’s scheduled speech on his book "The Bell Curve." Then the students (some wearing ski masks) mobbed Murray as he tried to leave the event.
“So many protesters surrounded the car, banging on the sides and the windows and rocking the car, climbing onto the hood, that (the driver) had to inch forward lest he run over them,” Murray recounted.
The cost for a year at Middlebury: $63,917.
On Feb. 9, a few days after the Milo debacle at Berkeley, the University of Louisville’s Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise hosted conservative Star Parker at the College of Business.
She urged U of L students to support free enterprise as the best way to create jobs and reduce poverty.
Parker’s delivery is less incendiary than Ann Coulter’s. However, the titles of Parker’s books reflect that her ideas, like Coulter’s, are unabashedly conservative/libertarian: “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It,” “Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats: From Welfare Cheat to Conservative Messenger” and “White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay.”
Liberals direct a special fury to those who dare think differently than their supposed identity group. As an African American and as a woman who embraces conservatism, Parker holds a viewpoint that threatens left-wing orthodoxy.
And yet she was greeted politely, warmly even, at U of L. She spoke to a filled auditorium, took questions, then signed books and ate pizza with students. Unlike at Berkeley and Middlebury, none of the students wore ski masks.
Perhaps alluding to the Milo riots at Berkeley, Parker told the U of L students, “You should be pretty thankful that you have a center at your campus to actually focus on these ideas.”
The cost of in-state tuition, room and board, and fees at U of L for a year: $25,756 ($40,778 for nonresidents).
This is not to say that U of L is a bastion of conservatism. The academy, any academy, leans left. That makes it all the more important that the few conservatives on the faculty be allowed to speak without reprisal.
As the university begins the process of searching for a new president, it is critical to the future of the school and to our commonwealth that the new president be committed to free expression, including viewpoints that make people uncomfortable. This should apply to faculty as well as visiting speakers. Diversity, moreover, should include ideological diversity.
Students cannot learn to think critically and debate if they are sheltered from every idea or speaker that offends or upsets them.
This has implications for Kentucky, as well. Free enterprise requires free expression. We need entrepreneurs — risk takers. Spending four years coddled in a “safe place” is no way to develop a tolerance for taking appropriate risk.
Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed legislation that protects students from religious discrimination at public schools. That’s fine, but the lunacy on college campuses extends far beyond religious discrimination. Our legislature should consider legislation to shore up free speech rights on its college campuses, as is Tennessee.
Kentucky can become a beacon of freedom — for businesses tired of burdensome regulations and students and faculty who crave a robust but civil debate that scrutinizes, but does not censor, all ideas and viewpoints.