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
In 1987, philosopher Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, a book critiquing higher education in America. As a self-described teacher “dedicated to liberal education,” Bloom offered a thoughtful account of illiberal cultural and ideological trends:
The Kalven Committee was appointed in February 1967 by University of Chicago President George W. Beadle. This faculty committee was charged with preparing "a statement on the University's role in political and social action." The resulting Kalven Report now stands as one of the most important policy documents at the University of Chicago. It affirms the University's commitment to the academic freedom of faculty and students in the face of suppression from internal and/or external entities while also insisting on institutional neutrality on political and social issues.
University presidents make a difference. The best of them can steer a university to new heights of greatness, while the worst of them can bring costly mediocrity or even extinction.
A few weeks ago, Mitch Daniels of Purdue, arguably the primus inter pares of American university presidents, announced that he was stepping down at the end of 2022 after a decade of extraordinary service.
Last week, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees passed two important resolutions on campus viewpoint neutrality. With the addition of these protections, UNC’s free-speech policies are among the best in the nation.
In this online webinar attorneys and advocates discussed free speech on college campuses and how cancel culture and political divides have impacted it. They also spoke about legal options available to students who believe their First Amendment rights to free speech have been violated. The Heritage Foundation hosted the discussion.
I attended a conference a few years ago for undergraduate “prelaw advisers”—academics, usually professors or deans, who guide undergraduates through the law-school admissions process. An admissions official from a prestigious law school used a file from a past applicant (with identifying information removed) to illustrate the review process. She began by noting the student’s high grade point average from “a good school.” That bothered me, because I knew she’d never call my regional state institution a “good school.”
Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper that it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) calls the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (whose board I serve on), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.
Alumni groups pressing free-speech issues are popping up at colleges in many states, as debates over academic freedom, “cancel culture” and changes on campus intensify.