Donald Trump’s visit to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Friday was a beautiful event despite unbecoming objections of faculty.
Hundreds of protesters communicated with thousands of adoring Trump fans, and our community was among the first to hear from a potential new president since he accepted his party’s nomination.
Trump spoke in his typical unprepared style, delivering a colorful stream of consciousness and mocking politicians who use teleprompters. Love or hate Trump, his talk was worth hearing.
Inside and outside the university’s Gallogly Events Center, ideas were peaceably tested, exchanged and challenged. That is how it should be on any publicly funded college campus.
If anyone should understand this, it is the university’s well-educated faculty of mature adults.
So it was dispiriting to see more than 100 faculty members sign a letter to “censure” and “reject” the Republican nominee’s pending speech.
To their credit, the UCCS faculty members were more respectful of academic freedom and free speech than a lot of their peers throughout the country. Increasingly, faculty and student body objections to guest speakers culminate in cancellations of their anticipated talks. It can be seen as prior restraint, in some cases, which is mostly forbidden by the First Amendment.
The UCCS faculty letter began by acknowledging Trump’s “legal right” to talk. It went on to explain the need for faculty “censure” of the pending address.
“Mr. Trump has repeatedly made public statements that are either not supported by any reasonable amount of empirical evidence or are reliant on selective samples. For instance, Mr. Trump has repeatedly stated that crime in the United States is rising and that we live in a society that is growing more dangerous. A preponderance of evidence at the nationwide level contradicts that claim,” the letter insists.
If they accept only speakers whose claims are accurate, and supported by a preponderance of evidence, we wonder if they would condemn a speech by President Barack Obama. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he said, in a notorious claim contradicted by a preponderance of evidence. We doubt they would censure former President Bill Clinton, who “did not have sexual relations with that woman.” They probably won’t censure Hillary Clinton, in the likely event she visits this year, even though the former secretary of state blamed a homemade video for the attack on our compound in Libya.
It is hard to think of a high-profile potential guest speaker who hasn’t said something untrue or been caught in a lie.
As for Trump’s crime verbiage, it isn’t so “specious” as the faculty letter claims. A violent crime survey released Monday by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, three days before the UCCS censure, shows a disturbing rise in violent crime nationwide. Our country’s 51 largest cities, including Colorado Springs, have tallied 307 more homicides, 1,000 more robberies, 2,000 more aggravated assaults and 600 more nonfatal shootings as compared to this time in 2015.
Indeed, crime is rising, society is growing more dangerous and the topic is relevant to the presidential contest. The faculty censured Trump for expressing a valid and relevant concern. The faculty’s letter assigned a motive to Trump’s lie, which isn’t really a lie, saying he wants “to fuel fear of certain minority groups.”
Now that is a specious claim, as the faculty cannot possibly know what’s in a man’s heart.
The letter gets weirder from there. It cites the university’s policy on diversity and inclusiveness, which says the institution “must be inclusive of everyone” in order to combat “legacies of advantage and disadvantage.”
So let’s talk about legacies of advantage and disadvantage on campus, where the primary mission is to advance diverse intellectual content.
To “be inclusive of everyone,” academe has a long way to go in helping conservatives counter a legacy of disadvantage. A 2014 study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found a historic and growing faculty imbalance that favors “liberal” and “far left” views.
The study determined liberal professors outnumber conservative peers by 5-to-1. Faculty members who self-identify as “liberal” have increased 20 percent in the past 25 years. George Mason economics professor Daniel Klein estimates the nation’s college faculty vote Democratic by 10-to-1.
So extreme is the legacy of advantage for the left, the University of Colorado at Boulder launched an affirmative action program to address it. Each year the campus selects, with great fanfare, a scholar to fill its Endowed Chair of Conservative Thought and Policy. Among an extreme minority of conservative faculty, the program is a snickering testament to their disadvantaged status.
To honor a code of inclusion, UCCS faculty members should not censure views that counter the overwhelmingly predominant philosophy of their field. Rather, they should wholeheartedly welcome diverse ideas that challenge a longstanding and growing legacy of left-wing privilege.
the gazette editorial board
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