Not All College Students are Intimidated
Not least among those welcoming the respite of Thanksgiving must be the nation’s college and university administrators. After student protests evicted Tim Wolfe as president of the University of Missouri, officials at other institutions of higher learning (if we may still call them that) were harassed by shouting or otherwise threatening students. At Princeton University, students occupied the office of the school’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, demanding that he throw Woodrow Wilson down the memory hole.So where are the dissenters on the Marquette campus? Turning Point USA has an honorable history. The College Republicans have hardly been heard from. Where are other conservative student groups?
Even at the remove of several weeks, it is remarkable to recall that the disturbance at Yale University was over “offensive” Halloween costumes. But amid the protests, some important principles are now at risk, notably free speech. We asked at the time where the adults were on campus—either school presidents or boards of trustees? The answer, so far, is that most have caved like wet cardboard. The most hopeful adult response has come from 18- to 22-year olds—the students themselves.
At Claremont McKenna, where a dean was driven from office over a supposedly objectionable email, the student editors of the Claremont Independent published “We Dissent.”
The editors took themselves to task for not speaking out earlier. But no more. Their editorial ended: “We are not immoral because we don’t buy the flawed rhetoric of a spiteful movement. We are not evil because we don’t want this movement to tear across our campuses completely unchecked. We are no longer afraid to be voices of dissent.”
This political courage may be catching on. At Princeton last week, students under the banner of the Open Campus Coalition sent President Eisgruber their own strong statement of dissent. It describes a student body intimidated to silence by the likelihood of being vilified, in public or on social media. It ends: “Princeton undergraduates opposed to the curtailment of academic freedom refuse to remain silent out of fear of being slandered.” They signed their names and class years, and we hope their professors don’t dock their grades for thinking for themselves.
With campus administrators and faculty cowed by political correctness run amok, these students are shaping a movement of principled, civilized dissent. Let’s hope it grows.
In fact, we know the answer: campus leftists are aggressive and intolerant, and it takes a lot of guts to face them down. Most students don’t want the grief, so they speak up when anonymity is guaranteed, in such places as the Climate Survey and Yik Yak. But like most people most of the time they simply withdraw in order to avoid the bullies.
But the few who don’t count as heroes.