It is a small matter, but it has huge implications. To begin at the beginning, I have been writing columns for the Marietta Daily Journal for some time now. When I started, this was a novelty for my colleagues at Kennesaw State University. As a result, my efforts were generally posted on the bulletin board in our departmental workroom.
In due course, however, one of my fellow professors complained. As the most radical member of our department, he found the conservative nature of my opinions offensive. So odious did he find them that he demanded that they be taken down on the grounds that they created “a hostile work environment.”
My initial response was that this was absurd, but the department chair did not agree. Within days he instructed our secretaries to remove my pieces and to make sure that no new columns were displayed. Evidently afraid of being sued for having upset the complainant, he decided that caution was the better part of valor.
But consider the consequences. Liberal opinions are routinely posted on our campus. Yet so far as I know, these are not removed on the assumption that they violate anyone’s rights. Apparently it is only conservative materials that infringe on the sensibilities of thin-skinned faculty members.
The outcome is, therefore, a marketplace of ideas where only those from one side of the argument are on view. Under these circumstances, how can there be a dialogue from which the truth emerges? How are people to compare the validity of different perspectives when only one side is deemed worthy of scrutiny?
Worse still, what about freedom of speech? How can there be any such thing if a single person’s sensitivities can precipitate censorship? Moreover, were this sort of suppression exercised against materials from the left, it is fairly certain there would be a hue and cry against political oppression.
And so here we have the spectacle of a university capitulating to efforts intended to purify the political atmosphere. No doubt this is not the policy of the university’s administrators. But it is indicative of the culture of contemporary higher education. Quite clearly, not a competition of ideas, but the supremacy of political correctness is the goal of many participants.
This, I submit, is inimical to the purpose of higher education. In a genuine marketplace of ideas feelings are bound to be bruised. No one likes to be wrong; hence few welcome arguments that make their side look bad.
Nonetheless, the discomfort of being contradicted must be endured if conflicting opinions are to be aired. This is what a university should encourage. Freedom of speech must not be casually tossed aside merely to comply with the wishes of those currently in the political ascendance. There is too much at stake for this.