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Academia needs a free speech renaissance

Academia is in need of serious reform, and it must happen quickly. Gone are the days of debate among intellectuals and the revered political discourse.

Anthony Daoud Montreal QC

Academia is in need of serious and rapid reform.

Gone are the days of debate among intellectuals who engage in open discourse.

Instead, Universities have slowly become the epicentre for the battle of free speech, where the liberal majority in most cases censor the conservative minority.

While many currently on campus will voice their opposition to this point, in my view the unpleasant truth remains that today’s students who identify as conservative or “right-wing” are terrified of discussing their ideas.

Simply admitting you disagree with leftist policies can land you in an uncomfortable position. Fearing harassment and being labelled in an abhorrent fashion, right-wing students are left to contemplate about how academia used to be.

Disagreeing with big government, heightened taxes, or wanting reasonable immigration reform does not make someone racist, sexist, or a bigot.

Nobody is fascist for wanting border security.

These terms hold such negative connotations that any person would tremble at the thought of being assigned such a label.

Sadly, it appears the left has weaponized these words to use it as their argument of choice.

Bias in universities

According to Cass Sunstein’s article, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

According to the study, professors were predominantly democrat voters.

In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.

The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is  1.6 to 1.

There are no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats, and with the increasing intrusion of politics in personal life, these professors are relishing the opportunity to gloat and push their beliefs even further.

It may seem harmless, but for those students who don’t conform, it is extremely worrying.

One survey even suggested that roughly 20 percent of social psychologists are in fact willing to discriminate against papers with conservative views. No student should be graded on the basis of political belief. If this continues, grading will lose legitimacy and will be subject to discrimination.

If this does not end, academia will be completely lost.

As noted, in elite schools the problem is just as bad, if not worse. Eighty-seven percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

Teachers are targets too

As it turns out, professors are not privy to the opinions of their colleagues either.

Jordan Peterson has become a pro-free speech celebrity, but his popularity would not have exploded if he wasn’t the subject of controversy during his teaching days at the University of Toronto.

Due to his realization that academia was quickly falling into a tyrannical left-wing abyss, there were calls for his dismissal, along with a great wave of demonization. Peterson’s diagnosis perfectly exposed the left, and propelled him to the forefront as a protector of many of the values currently under attack.

Brett Weinstein, a former evolutionary biology teacher at Evergreen State University was also berated several years prior because of his refusal to leave campus for Absence Day, a tradition at the university.

The occasion was never obstructed, but when students began to demand all whites leave campus, Weinstein flagged his objection.

He was subsequently punished by the all-too-familiar circus of mobbing, slander and defamation. Coupled with his dissent over Absence Day, his belief that teachers should be hired on quality rather than inalienable characteristics to match diversity standards also led to a cesspool of anger.

Free speech is essential

With such conservative under representation, there exists no resistance to the liberal takeover of academia. As a society, we ought to remain skeptical about the complete lack of neutrality.

Of course, It is impossible to attain immaculate impartiality among educators. Pragmatism must be calculated when contemplating a viable solution, therefore political leniency among all cohorts of academia must be accepted.

More emphasis should be placed on stabilizing curricula rather than blindly chasing the forever altering frontiers of liberalism.

In addition, safe spaces should be abolished because the truth remains that we are already granted rights enshrined by the constitution and judicial codes. The West is already a bastion of freedom, and as Flemming Rose of the Huffington Post concludes, safe spaces foster deep intolerance.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford administered a praiseworthy policy that enforces post-secondary schools to adopt strict free speech requirements. Failure to adequately abide can result in financial consequences in the form of decreased funding.

However, vigorous advocates for free-expression have a moral obligation to continue observing the discrepancy between free speech and hate speech. The two shouldn’t be conflated under the umbrella of individual liberty.

Another prescription to address the issues on campus could be an online forum available at post-secondary institutions which would allow for students to provide constructive feedback and/or express preoccupation with overt political bias in teachers. It would empower students with a greater voice and place a check on explicit imbalance.

What do you think? Join the conversation by commenting below!

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