Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chicago Tribune on Marquette Attempt to Fire Warrior Blogger

Another column in a major media outlet, The Chicago Tribune. The author, Diana Sroka Rickert, outlines the facts of the case, and then draws some larger conclusions.
So a student disagreed with an instructor’s views on a polarizing issue. The instructor silenced the student. McAdams blogged about the incident, and after his blog post gained regional and national attention, Marquette silenced him too.

The fact that the university would revoke tenure from McAdams has sent shock waves through academia. Tenure is a treasured tenet of higher education, and revoking tenure usually is reserved for the most egregious of offenses.

. . .

“It’s left us with a lot of concern,” said Peter Bonilla of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “If Marquette will do this to someone like McAdams, there’s no reason to expect they won’t do it to some other faculty member if they became a headache or PR disaster for the university.”

This isn’t just a campus problem. It’s exemplary of a dangerous societal movement underway: Instead of debating the merits of our ideas, those who hold unpopular opinions are publicly shamed, and then silenced. Their livelihoods are destroyed, often in coordinated, mob-like efforts. Lest anyone else ever think of speaking out or lending support to a cause, be forewarned — the price is steep.

Remember Brendan Eich? He resigned as CEO of Mozilla after just 10 days on the job because it was revealed that he donated to a California Proposition 8 campaign.

Just the other week, the Chicago Teachers Union threatened to kick out of the union any teachers who attempted to teach on April 1 instead of joining the union’s citywide walkout. The union intimidated teachers by pledging severe peer pressure: “No CTU member is to cross a picket line, and each school should designate a small crew to record any such activity,” an email to teachers warned. How’s that for congeniality among peers?

We’d like to think reasonable people can disagree on a variety of controversial topics. In reality, the costs associated with sharing or acting on your opinion are quickly beginning to outweigh the benefits.

It’s no wonder people are holding back more than before. Even the sharing of personal stories on Facebook has dropped 21 percent in the past year, according to The Information, a tech news website.

The fact that certain opinions are being suppressed means that somewhere, someone gets to decide what is socially and culturally acceptable and what is not. When does free speech cross the line to hate speech, and who makes that call? Instead of allowing our different views to compete in a marketplace of ideas, some entity — be it a university administrator, a government official or a powerbroker — is calling the shots on whose voice gets heard and who gets shut up.

“Popular views do not need protection,” McAdams wrote in a letter to Marquette. He’s right.

We need to reject this cultural shift, and that’s why the McAdams case matters so much. Every new idea, every major social movement, starts out as a minority opinion. If the majority of people gets to decide which ideas or opinions are acceptable and the consequences of speaking out are too painful, we may someday reach a point in which no minority opinion exists.
But that, of course, is what a lot of people want.

In response to Rickert’s column a certain Aaron Ledesma wrote an article explicitly insisting that any opposition to gay marriage should be silenced and shut up at Marquette.

And proponents of man-made global warming have a long history of trying to punish and stifle dissenting views.

So the idea that someone gets to decide what is socially and culturally acceptable and what is not is attractive to people who think that they and their friends will be the people who get to do the deciding.

Rickert, by the way, is a former student of ours, and part of a cohort of outstanding conservative students who started an alternative campus paper at Marquette, The Warrior. Competing with official campus papers, it bested them in journalistic awards.

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