Like CNN’s notorious and frequently lampooned mischaracterization of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, riots as “mostly peaceful protests,” I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at President Eisgruber ’83’s proud assertion that “I believe we have [civil discourse] on most American college campuses.” I suppose that those weasel words “I believe” and “most” give him some wiggle room, but could anything be further from the truth? Is he living in a parallel universe where conservative speakers — indeed, anyone who dares defy the intolerant progressive orthodoxy that pervades so much of academia, at Berkeley, Pitt, San Francisco State, and on and on — were not blocked from speaking, not assaulted, intimidated, or “disinvited,” where MIT Professor Robert van der Hilst does not say, “Freedom of speech goes very far but it makes civility difficult,” and Professor Phoebe Cohen at Williams does not dismiss the “idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism [coming as it does] from a world in which white men dominated,” and where Dorian Abbot delivers his (totally apolitical) lecture on “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets” at MIT? It could be that Princeton and the University of Chicago, among the nation’s preeminent institutions, are a little better than the rest, but generally the furious and violent suppression of opposing opinions continues. As activism degenerates into fanaticism, as propaganda and indoctrination replace reliable information and thoughtful analysis and debate, this has always been the case.
In Response to: A Case Study in Civil Discourse