A university president never enjoys being forced to apologize, especially to a conservative. But on Saturday that’s what Stanford’s president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, had to do.
Jenny Martinez, dean of Stanford’s law school, co-signed the president’s letter of apology to Judge Kyle Duncan. When Duncan arrived on campus last week to give a talk on “Guns, COVID, and Twitter,” Stanford law students shouted him down.
An administrator on the scene, Stanford law’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach, essentially sided with the hecklers, asking Duncan if “the juice was worth the squeeze,” according to The Stanford Daily.
Such scenes are all too common when today’s aggressively sensitive college students learn about a speaker or faculty member who has something to say that they find indelicate. A generation has been trained to think of dissent from progressive pieties as “harm.”
The only surprise at Stanford is that the president was embarrassed enough to apologize. He’s promised it won’t happen again. But it will — maybe not at Stanford right away, but somewhere.
Perhaps the next time a conservative gets canceled on campus will be when Michael Knowles debates Deirdre McCloskey on transgenderism and womanhood at the University of Pittsburgh in April.
When Knowles told an audience at CPAC this month “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” freelance censors of the activist student left set out to cancel any speaking engagements he might have coming up. As it happens, the educational organization I work for, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, already had him booked for the debate at Pitt with McCloskey.
Deirdre was once Donald, but Prof. McCloskey, a prominent economist, is also a committed liberal of the classical variety and has not backed out of what now promises to be an even more incendiary debate. But that’s the thing about debate: It can be hot without being harmful.
Liberals of the older variety were, and are, even open to debating liberalism itself. This is shocking to younger liberals — who, unlike their parents or grandparents, have never actually encountered fascism or Jim Crow or illiberalism of any concretely harmful kind. Somehow the more pervasive left-wing attitudes become, the more young people of the left feel threatened.
Even as they feel their safety is endangered by right-wing or simply not-left-wing speech, they discount the real violence unleashed in cities across America by liberals’ tolerance of crime and intolerance of police. When criminals prey on victims they consider weak in the subways of New York or on the streets of Chicago, college-educated liberal journalists present the results as “Anti-Asian” violence, as if such violence springs from a history of racism in America and not from the fact that too many criminals are treated far too leniently by our justice system.
How will they be treated when the lawless law students of Stanford University today become judges and prosecutors tomorrow?
The capture of American higher education by students and administrators with a Maoist mentality has caused a great deal of soul-searching among moderates and conservatives. Did the older liberalism lead inevitably to this?
The distinctly illiberal but staunchly democratic conservative philosopher Willmoore Kendall warned in the 1950s that the “open society” was a way station to revolution. Liberals would tolerate radicals who would never tolerate mere liberals once their generation inherited power.
And even in Kendall’s day, the Joseph McCarthy era, free-speech liberals were more fearful and intolerant of the right than they were of the Communist-sympathizing left. As a Yale professor, Kendall was made to feel distinctly unwelcome by colleagues supposedly committed to open inquiry. Eventually the university paid him to give up his tenure.
But one does not have to revisit the conservative intellectuals of the Cold War — let alone doubt the wisdom of the First Amendment — to understand what has happened to our colleges and universities. If ideas have consequences, we are living with the consequence of excessive Democratic partisanship within the institutions that develop the most powerful legal and moral ideas.
The Harvard Crimson surveyed faculty last year and found that more than 82% identified as “liberal” or “very liberal.” As lopsided as that is, that figure by itself dramatically underrepresents the faculty bias — because fewer than 1.5% of faculty surveyed identified as “conservative,” and reportedly none identified as “very conservative.”
When researchers poll other elite universities, results are similar. When they poll for actual party affiliation, rather than the rough proxy of ideology, the results often show there are even fewer self-identified Republicans than conservatives among professors and administrators.
Race and sexual identity are as important to the Democratic Party as religion is to Republicans. It is no coincidence that universities — and media — with an overwhelmingly Democratic bias produce narratives and ideologies that help the Democratic coalition and cast the Republican coalition in the worst possible light.
Professors and administrators may not be conscious propagandists for the Democrats. But they have surely read enough Marx to know that ideology tends to be derivative of more basic interests.
What will spare the president of Stanford from having to issue more apologies in the future is the very thing universities have long claimed to prize: diversity, specifically of the political kind. Until colleges have more conservatives and Republicans, they will only have more cancellations.
Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review. To read more by Daniel McCarthy, visit www.creators.com