I have recently spoken several times on my concerns with free speech on campus.
There has been lots to say in opposition to reports of crack-downs on speech.
But today, I would also like to give one shining example of a college upholding free expression on campus.
Started by former University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, the institution has consistently pushed back on the trend of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and the cancelation of invited speakers.
Instead, in a letter to all incoming freshmen, the university lays out its philosophy in plain English.
In the letter to the 2020 freshman class, it said that one of the university’s “defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.”
This is more than just words; the university has consistently followed through.
Even today, the university is still open to dissenting points of view.
It even goes so far as to tell freshmen “at times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”
They are absolutely right, the point of college is not to be coddled. It’s to learn.
How can students do that if they don’t step out of their comfort zones?
I often say the definition of a university is a place where controversy should run rampant.
At the University Chicago, that means noting that “diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community.”
Both opinion and background are important, and it defeats the point to just have the one.
Our universities cannot have just a veneer of diversity.
The whole point of bringing in students of different backgrounds is to get different points of view.
That aim is meaningless if all students who go to a college believe the same things.
I have introduced several bills to provide transparency for prospective students.
My bills focus on transparency of cost, but in many ways openness about a university’s values are just as important.
I congratulate Zimmer for doing just that and putting his university’s values on its sleeve.
If some schools keep cracking down on free speech and invited speakers then the free market will send their students elsewhere.
That’s because I don’t think all kids want to go to a school where they will never be challenged and where their ideas will always be re-affirmed.
I am happy to see projects like the University of Austin – a newly founded college dedicated to free speech principles.
But it takes time to start these new institutions.
Instead, we need people to stand up in the colleges we already have.
I hope others will join me in doing just that.