Universities are supposed to be a place to exchange ideas -- not silence them. Tell that to Vanderbilt, where a hypersensitive student body is demanding the head of a conservative black professor for daring to challenge their opinion on politics. For Dr. Carol Swain, this institutionalized prejudice is nothing new. As an African-American woman, she's been threatened, protested, and verbally abused for exposing students to other views in one of academia's elite laboratories of radicalism.
And what are these offensive views? That radical Islam -- the same extremism that toppled the World Trade Centers -- is a grave threat to the American way of life. Apparently, this offended students' delicate sensibilities and resulted in a campus-wide firestorm. Now, for suggesting that the country do a better job of monitoring terrorists, the pitchforks are out. The "controversy" has gotten so out of control that a petition to fire Swain has more than 1,500 signatures.
Among other things, students accuse Carol of expressing hatred toward minorities -- which is ridiculous because she is a minority! And not just any minority, but a high school dropout and teenage mother who beat the odds to become a highly accomplished professor and public intellectual. Liberals, of course, can't stand stories like Swain's or Dr. Ben Carson's because it pushes back on their narrative that people can't help themselves -- only the government can. "Although Ms. Swain is free to speak openly and have her own views," the undersigned agree, "no matter how disagreeable they may be, it is generally unprofessional to attach your job title to a channel promoting your personally held beliefs." (Unless, of course, those beliefs are exceedingly liberal.)
In addition to ousting Swain, Vanderbilt's students are insisting that the faculty undergo diversity training -- which is almost comical, since they're clearly so diversity-averse.
"I think they're sad and pathetic," Carol said, "in the sense that they're college students, and they should be open to hearing more than one viewpoint." If Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos's statement was meant to reassure Swain, it didn't. After explaining that the opinions of students didn't necessarily reflect those of the school, he went on to say that speech whose "sole purpose or effect is to discriminate, stigmatize, retaliate, offend, foment hatred or violence, or cause harm has no place in this university."
Interestingly, the conflict comes at a time when even far-Left institutions are starting to question the course of rabid liberalism. In a fascinating article from The Atlantic this fall called "The Coddling of the American Mind," authors talk about the "strange thing" happening on college campuses. "In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don't like... A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense."
Unfortunately, this is all the result of modern child-centric parenting, whose everybody-gets-a-trophy philosophy is giving us a generation of thin-skinned, self-entitled whines. At one time, academic freedom meant something. These days, even "progressive" professors are taking pseudonyms to pen articles like, "I'm a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me." Like us, he wonders, what's the point of spoon-feeding them more intolerance? So they become more deeply entrenched in their hostility toward other views?
As Peter Kiersanow wrote in his "Campus Lunacy Spreads" piece in NRO, "Heaven (are we allowed to say that?) forbid any precious dears be exposed to viewpoints different from inspected, tested, and approved progressive orthodoxy. They might have to suffer the inconvenience and indignity of thinking." Here's the scary thing: these students, the same ones calling for censorship, are the so-called future leaders of America.
Courageous men and women like Carol Swain are all that's standing between the complete takeover of higher education as we know it. Support her by contacting the Vanderbilt Board of Trustees and encouraging them to take immediate steps to create a welcoming environment for orthodox Christians and Jews, political and social conservatives, and anyone else who holds traditional views.
The rainbow hasn't just colored the White House -- it's colored the president's entire legacy. For seven years, Americans have watched the Obama administration's obsession with LGBT activism eclipse every other urgent issue. Now, deep into the president's second term, they're scratching their heads trying to identify where the president has had a positive effect.
In a new poll, Obama's approval numbers are in the basement when it comes to at least 15 major policy issues. Only on the subject of "gay rights" did a slim plurality (with several "undecided") approve of his handling of the issue. Unfortunately for the president, it was also the least important issue for voters. The rest of his report card—on health care, the economy, gun rights, abortion, foreign policy, immigration, and more—was a solid F. And based on his latest priorities, that isn't about to change.
While the world is experiencing the largest forced migration since WWII, the White House is doing nothing to protect men and women of faith. Instead, the president is sending his special LGBT envoy to the Vatican to pressure the Pope to lighten up on homosexuality.
Even now, the president is proving how out of touch he is with Americans' real concerns by swooping in to Chicago support a boy's "right" to walk around naked in a girls' locker room. His fixation with sexualizing schools, the military, the government, other nations, is not only wasting precious time and energy -- it's detracting from the real crises at hand. Yet here he is, under the guise of the Department of Education, telling other parents of girls, that it's entirely within a child's right to ignore his own biology and expose himself to female peers.
And despite a reasonable compromise from the school (a curtain to protect girls from feeling more uncomfortable than they already are), the Obama DOE put its foot down. If the school doesn't give this boy full access to girls' facilities in 30 days, Washington will pull its federal funding. If only the president showed this kind of resolve with Iran! To the school's credit, it pushed back, insisting, "The students in our schools are teenagers -- not adults -- and one's gender is not the same as one's anatomy. Our responsibility as school administrators is to protect the privacy rights of all our students."
As a father of daughters, even President Obama should see the virtue in setting aside his agenda and embracing common sense. Or maybe not.
What better place to talk about liberty than at Liberty? Dr. Ben Carson agreed, becoming the latest presidential candidate to visit my alma mater in Lynchburg, Virginia. After a strong debate, Carson's encore was a speech before thousands of students at Liberty University on Wednesday, where he highlighted (among other things) the importance of religious freedom. "Fight for your beliefs," he urged students. If elected, he promised to shield people who believe in the natural definition of marriage.
"Our nation's survival... is rooted in our values system, the values and principles that made us into a great nation. And the real question is: Are we willing to stand up for those values and principles? Or will we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the secular progressives? The secular progressives don't care whether you agree with them or not, as long as you sit down and keep your mouth shut, and I think that the secret [of] the prosperity in this nation is we must be willing to stand up for what we believe in."
What does religious liberty have to do with that prosperity? At first blush, not much -- but Dr. Jay Richards begs to differ. An economist and professor at Catholic University of America, Dr. Richards gave a powerful lecture at FRC on Thursday articulating the idea that religious freedom and economic freedom are inextricably linked. He illustrated this yesterday by overlaying two maps showing that those countries with the highest measure of religious liberty also tend to have the most robust economic growth.
Why? Because economic liberty is based on the same foundational principles as religious liberty: the dignity of the individual to freely make their own choices, the freedom of association, the freedom of families to form and to raise children as they see fit, and limited government. As Dr. Richards pointed out, even when secular economists argue in favor of economic freedom, they do so in moral terms that people should not be forced or coerced into anything. This in turn "presupposes certain things about the intrinsic dignity of the individual and then implies that the state is supposed to do some things and not do other things." To watch the FRC lecture in its entirety, click below.
** If you're in South Carolina, come out and worship with us this Sunday, November 15 at First Baptist North Spartanburg (8740 Asheville Highway, Spartanburg, S.C. 29316). At the invitation of Dr. Mike Hamlet, I'll be preaching at the 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. services. For more information, check out FirstNorth.org.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.