The on-line journal of DFTD reports on free speech and discourse and ideological balance issues at Davidson and serves as a clearing house for reports and articles nationwide illuminating the situation on other campuses, articulating the campus free speech cause, or proposing remedies to address the nationwide threat to free speech and open discourse on higher education campuses. In the interest of an informed and open dialogue, we encourage signed letters to the editor, and will consider, as well, original articles on free speech and ideological balance issues.
Davidson Freedom Roundup
The roots of free speech are ancient, deep, and sprawling. The Athenian statesman Pericles extolled the democratic values of open debate and tolerance of social dissent in 431 BC. In the ninth century, the irreverent freethinker Ibn al-Rawandi used the fertile intellectual climate of the Abbasid caliphate to question prophecy and holy books. In 1582, the Dutchman Dirck Coornhert insisted that it was “tyrannical to . . . forbid good books in order to squelch the truth.” The first legal protection of press freedom was instituted in Sweden in 1766.
Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard, issued a statement Feb. 28 condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine on behalf of the university. It decried the “deplorable actions of Vladmir Putin ” and asserted that Harvard has an obligation to speak out because “institutions devoted to the perpetuation of democratic ideas and to the articulation of human rights have a responsibility to condemn such wanton aggression.”
The mission of every college and university is to provide a forum for the free exchange of thought, vigorous debate and the broadest possible range of ideas. At least, that is what it ought to be. But that mission is at odds with the spirit of our present age, defined by silos of chatroom groupthink, social media shaming, hyper-partisan news media, self-conscious corporate virtue signaling and puritanical language policing.
In its 15 months of publishing, Persuasion has given its readers extensive coverage of the democracy recession happening around the world, and of the threats to liberal democracy coming from within the United States. Some of those threats come from the far right and some from the far left. Within the category of threats from the far left, there are many reports about rapid change in specific professions.
It is now a familiar pattern. A professor says something controversial, most likely in public on social media. Someone notices and tries to attract attention by attacking the professor -- perhaps in good faith disagreement, perhaps not. Petitions are started. Social media posts start trending. Calls are made to university officials demanding that something be done and asking plaintively that won't someone think of the children. The professor in question is likely to receive a spate of hate mail, both electronic and the old fashioned kind.
Dartmouth’s ‘safety’ rationale crumbles as records reveal censorship as the primary motivator in canceling event with Andy Ngo
Dartmouth’s eleventh-hour cancellation of a student event featuring journalist Andy Ngo due to “safety” concerns immediately raised suspicion, especially after precious few protesters actually showed up. Now, police department records cast even greater doubt on Dartmouth’s security rationale and demonstrate how university administrators ignored law enforcement when they censored their students.
College administrators are now acknowledging they have created environments on their campuses that diminish free expression and choke intellectual liveliness. For years, the game plan was to simply disavow the stifling of free expression on college campuses, while at the same time imposing speech codes, running ideological orientation programs, and hiring faculty and student affairs staffers who all think alike. That denial strategy, however, has become unworkable as alums, prospective students and the public at large signal that the game is up.
Education watchdog says more donors are voting with their wallets: ‘They should know they aren’t walking checkbooks’
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni recently conducted a survey that revealed a majority of major donors to Davidson College are dissatisfied with the growing ideological imbalance and intolerance of free speech the college has taken in the last decade.