Public universities, free speech, and scientific fact

Stephen Gavazzi and Gordon Gee explain in a Washington Examiner column why public universities need to lead the way in promoting free speech and reliance on scientific fact.

As our nation moves toward its next election cycle, we call on America’s public universities to make their campuses a “neutral ground” for our nation’s discourse, a place where ideas are exchanged freely and where evidence is examined critically. Universities simply cannot stand by as our nation abdicates the middle ground in politics. The center must be taken and held at all costs, welcoming all comers to participate in the dialogue. …

… It would be economic suicide, [Michael] Barone said, for universities to be seen by the public as politically slanted so heavily toward the left, especially in states where so many prospective students hail from vicinities that leaned rightward.

We couldn’t agree more, and not just for economic reasons. As a country, we are at another crossroads, another point where we can either work together or, alternatively, allow ourselves to become so alienated from one another that we suffer through another period of prolonged divisiveness. To be clear, we are not looking to change people’s political affiliations. Rather, we are calling on our public universities to remember their heritage as institutions designed to serve the most pressing needs of the American people.

This means redoubling efforts to provide fair and balanced opportunities for all sides to be heard on campuses, especially because neither side in today’s politically charged climate holds the upper hand on an ethical or moral level, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Those who would proclaim “fake news” are, as often as not, guilty of contributing to the suppression of fact, scientific or otherwise. And those who would declare “safe spaces” and demand “trigger warnings” are making a mockery of free speech on campuses.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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