Because the First Amendment affects public universities differently, I won’t compare my place of employment with Middlebury College, a private Vermont college whose website is benefiting from self-righteous examples of click bait written by conservative writers and self-identified liberal Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist with even less talent for polysyllabic handwringing than colleague David Brooks. But Paul Campos offers points that need considering:
Universities are ongoing exercises in massive content discrimination, and indeed have to be by their very nature. The notion that universities should be open to all viewpoints is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe anyone would defend it, except at the highest level of abstraction, which is the level at which such defenses invariably take place.
Universities should not be open to the viewpoints of Holocaust deniers or Sandy Hook truthers, to pick just a couple of a basically unlimited number of possible examples, because such views are false, and false views should not be given a forum within institutions dedicated to the pursuit of truth.
But where do you draw the line? You draw it right here, every day, that’s where. (“Right here” being within the university itself). But who should have the authority to make decisions about what constitutes a controversial view that deserves a hearing, and what is misguided nonsense, or a noxious calculated lie, or a paranoid delusion? We should — we being the members of the scholarly community — BECAUSE THAT’S LITERALLY OUR JOB, or part of it, anyway.
Sorry for shouting but come on.
The point is that, within the university at least, viewpoint tolerance is not and cannot possibly be some sort of absolute value. It’s a pragmatic tool in the pursuit of truth, and, like all such tools, it has its limits.
Milo Yiannopoulos or Charles Murray’s supporters, financial and otherwise, have no interest in Furthering Intellectual Debate: they know how college students will respond, then use the response as a way to criticize the Intolerant Left and raise funds. I would distinguish between the invitation of Murray and, say, Alan Greenspan, a satrap who holds views that I find repulsive and dangerous but have formed part of liberal American economic thought since the Lochner era and beyond; if we’re going to disqualify Greenspan, it must be on the basis of his youthful admiration for terrible and influential writer Ayn Rand, in the same way I would protest Condoleeza Rice’s commencement addresses because no college student should be subject to commencement addresses on a morning or afternoon best spent drinking on your parents’ dime.