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
When persons of means contemplate death, the question of where to leave their financial assets becomes acute. If they are higher education graduates, their former campuses have “advancement teams” ready to answer questions, provide forms, and urge investments in their institutions. Sometimes they will appeal to altruism, sometimes ideology, and sometimes ego. Would you like to have your name on this activity or building? Such administrators believe that “where there is a Will, there is a way.”
This is the senior speech that Julie Hartman ‘22 delivered in Harvard’s Memorial Chapel on May 3, 2022
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics on March 5, 2022, and is republished here with permission.
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.
Helen Andrews is a senior editor at the American Conservative and a graduate of Yale University.
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.