This weekend on CNN, host Fareed Zakaria made an astoundingly reasonable statement in discussing the state of American academia: “Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely.”
Zakaria’s comments are particularly timely since college commencement season is beginning to wrap up. As hundreds of thousands of students cross the graduation stages of universities nationwide, only two things are certain: debt and liberal commencement speakers. Having recently given the address at Bucknell University, Zakaria dropped a truth bomb on many liberals on his weekly CNN slot. He said, “Liberals think they are tolerant, but often they aren’t.”
This is a refreshing change of pace. Many commencement speakers with a conservative point of view are booed, protested and walked out on, assuming they are even invited to speak in the first place. An annual study by the Young America’s Foundation found that only four conservative speakers were invited to give remarks at any of the top 100 universities in the nation as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. The most notable and controversial speaker according to campus crybabies was Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence gave the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame earlier this month, and many students walked out in protest. He wasn’t the only one, however. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was nearly booed off the stage of Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, and political author and scholar Charles Murray said he has “never encountered anything close to” the protests at Middlebury College when he took the graduation stage.
The idea of using celebrities and politicians as commencement speakers is a last ditch effort by universities to further push political agendas into malleable millennial minds before they enter adulthood. Elizabeth Warren — who is no stranger to political grandstanding herself — seized yet another opportunity to share her thoughts on the current administration at the recent commencement address in her home state at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. But how does sharing your political frustrations prepare students for post-college life? How does it brace students for the harsh reality that the real world is not a safe space?
The entirety of this seemingly ongoing struggle can be boiled down to one simple point: free speech and intellectual diversity are a very necessary force for good as enshrined in the Constitution. Commencement speakers and students, liberal and conservative alike, are well within their rights to share their views on campus and to peacefully protest the views with which they disagree. However, it is un-American to silence voices on the grounds of disagreement alone. While the students protesting are certainly within their rights to do so, what does this achieve?
American universities were once a place of learning and intellectual exchange. Today, they are simply a breeding ground for groupthink. Learning is supposed to take place both inside and outside of the classroom, however that stops as soon as an open dialogue ends. This silencing is a disservice not only to conservatives on college campuses, but to liberal students as well, who are robbing themselves of the opportunity to learn from those with whom they disagree.
Zakaria’s words should serve as a sobering reminder that perhaps those who are so vocally committed to diversity should start practicing what they preach. “American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity,” he said, and unfortunately, this couldn’t be truer. “It’s an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we’re so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree,” he continued.
Students at American universities are being robbed of the real world preparedness that they will desperately need after leaving their campuses. The more students and ivory tower academics curate the opinions shared on campus, the harsher the reality check will be in the post-graduate world.