Right Opinion

The Cowards of Academia

Dennis Prager · Apr. 25, 2017

Now that student mobs at universities around America (and elsewhere in the West) have silenced conservative speaker after conservative speaker, it has dawned on a small number of left-wing professors that the public is beginning to have contempt for the universities. As a result, a handful of academics at a handful of universities have signed statements on behalf of allowing “diverse” views to be heard at the university.

These statements are worthless.

While some of the professors who have signed them may sincerely believe that the university should honor the value of non-left free speech, one should keep in mind the following caveats.

First, the number of professors, deans and administrators who have signed these statements is very small.

Second, while no one can know what animates anyone else, it’s a little hard to believe that many of those who did sign are sincere. If they are, why haven’t we heard from them for decades? Shutting out conservatives and conservative ideas is not new. Plus, it’s easy to sign a letter. You look righteous (“Of course, I support free speech.”) and pay no price.

Third, these statements accomplish nothing of practical value. They are basically feel-good gestures.

If any of the rioting students read these statements — a highly unlikely occurrence — it is hard to imagine any of them thinking: “Wow, I really have been acting like a fascist, rioting and shutting down non-left-wing speakers, but now my eyes have been opened and I’m going to stop. Even though my professors have taught me that every conservative is a sexist racist xenophobic Islamophobic hatemonger, next time one of these despicable human beings comes to campus, I will silently wait for them to finish talking and then civilly ask challenging questions.”

Thanks to left-wing indoctrination that begins in elementary school, most American students do not enter college as supporters of free speech. As reported in The New York Times on Feb. 7, 2017, a Knight Foundation survey found that only 45 percent of students “support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public.”

If any professors want to do something truly effective, they should form a circle around a hall in which a conservative is scheduled to speak, with each of them holding up a sign identifying themselves as a professor: “I am (name), professor of (department).”

If just 1 percent of the professors on campus — that would mean just 43 faculty members at a place like UCLA — were to stand in front of the building in which a conservative was to speak, that might actually have an impact. If they were then attacked by left-wing thugs, other faculty members would be forced to take a position.

But it won’t happen. It won’t because the university is a particularly cowardly place. And it has been so for many decades. In the 1970s, when I was a graduate student at Columbia University, left-wing students took over classrooms and administration offices. But I recall no faculty members objecting; and the college presidents and deans, were, if possible, even more craven.

Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak this week at the University of California, Berkeley. Last week, the university announced it was canceling her speech, providing the usual excuse that it couldn’t guarantee her safety, or others'. This excuse is as phony as it is cowardly. Berkeley and other universities know well that there is a way to ensure safety. They can do so in precisely the same way every other institution in a civilized society ensures citizens' safety: by calling in sufficient police to protect the innocent and arrest the violent. But college presidents don’t do that sort of thing — not at Berkeley, or Yale University, or Middlebury College, or just about anywhere else. They don’t want to tick off their clients (students), their faculty, leftist activist groups or the liberal media.

Under pressure, Berkeley’s cowardly administration rescinded its cancellation and rescheduled Coulter’s speech during the daytime during pre-finals week, when there are no classes and many students are not on campus. Coulter has rejected these changes and vowed to speak on the originally scheduled date.

So, next time you read a statement by some professors — virtually all of whom, remember, have been silent for decades — on behalf of allowing opinions other than their own to be expressed on their campuses, take it with a large grain of salt. It’s primarily because some alumni are finally withholding funds from their closed-minded alma maters, or because the students they have produced have become so violent even the mainstream media can’t ignore it.

Until they line up to safeguard people like Ann Coulter and stop teaching their students that conservatives are deplorable human beings, their open letters aren’t worth the printer toner that prints them.

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