Thomas Gallatin / March 7, 2017

The Closing of the College Mind

Colleges and universities are fast becoming intolerant of free speech.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “liberal arts” as “college or university studies intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocation skills.” In this context, the term “liberal” has little to do with a political persuasion but is rather derived from the Latin word liber, meaning “free, unrestricted.” In other words, a college or university campus should literally be a “safe space” for the least restricted free discussion of various and differing thoughts and ideas. In a very real sense, the university setting should be the location where freedom of speech is most evident and fully expressed. But times, they are a changing.

Last week, well known author and social scientist Charles Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury College. He was to speak on his recently published book entitled “Coming Apart,” which examined the struggles of the white working class and some of the social forces that propelled Donald Trump to victory. Murray works at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. As Murray began his talk, however, loud protests erupted among the students in attendance eventually forcing him from the stage. They claimed to be protesting his “hate speech,” which of course is merely leftist code for conservative ideology. The protesting students soon became an angry mob as he attempted to leave the college, and without the assistance of security guards he may have sustained injury.

Sadly, Murray’s experience appears to be becoming more common place across America’s university campuses. As the recent UC Berkeley riot over Milo Yiannopolous attests. These historic bastions of free thought and speech have become little more than schools for leftist indoctrination. The equating of non-leftist and conservative ideology with “hate speech” as a justification for protecting students from these “intolerant” ideas only proves to further the closing of the minds of college youth to truly free and thoughtful inquiry. The irony is the utter lack of tolerance for a truly diverse ideological environment. Maybe these schools should be referred to as institutions committed to the “illiberal arts.”

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