UC Boulder: Conservative Prof and Conservative Speakers

Boulder has an endowed visiting conservative prof. I’m not so keen on billionaire ideologues funding prof lines who have to adhere to their ideology (do they test them, like religious colleges test your faith?) Anyway, it’s gone fine.

I am happy to report that the lectures were well attended and that we had none of the disturbances or protests that we’ve seen on other campuses throughout the United States over the past few years. Audience members asked probing questions, but they were clearly offered in a spirit of inquiry and truth seeking, even when it was obvious that the questioner strongly disagreed with the speaker. That’s the sort of critical dialogue that many of us — regardless of our political views — believe to be integral to university life.

My general thesis is that right-wing speech on campus mostly goes fine. The same with left-wing speech. And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to the high profile incidents. The problem is that the Very Concerned Media parlays high profile issues into a broad problem of discrimination against conservative thought. There are, rather, specific moments of discrimination – and these should be addressed. I’ve always been forthright about the importance of defending abhorrent speech (right up to the line where Milo starts attacking specific students on campus. That, for me, is the difference between Milo and, say, Coulter). We have to push back at the generalized “left wing college campuses are destroying America” discourse though. This essay, in that context, is useful.

Author says he thinks things go well because he’s framing things nicely:

What became my standard “stump speech” focused on the growing indifference to the attacks on freedom of speech, association and religion in the wider culture, but especially on our college campuses. As far as I could tell, my message was well received, even by many listeners who do not identify as conservative or libertarian.

I believe the main reason for this is that I framed this talk as a defense of what I like to call rock-ribbed liberalism, about which I have written elsewhere: “I miss liberalism. Real liberalism. Not this namby-pamby, afraid-of-your-own-shadow fainthearted liberalism. What I miss is the rock-ribbed, truth-seeking, justice-pursuing, rights-defending, I-don’t-agree-with-you-but-I’ll-defend-your-right-to-say-it liberalism. It was the liberalism that defeated Nazism and Communism. It was your daddy’s liberalism …”

This approach resonated with a lot of people.

But he’s wrong, I suspect, about why things are fine. It’s because mostly, things go fine. People on college campuses listen. There’s a lot of great dialogue. There are a million or ten speeches a year across American campus.

The PC-run-amok panic is a tool used to whip up certain kinds of responses, rather than an accurate assessment of campus life across the diverse schools of America.

Leave a Reply