In a recent talk to Stanford’s Board of Trustees, a former provost blasted liberal intolerance for free speech.
“Over the years, I have watched a growing intolerance at universities in this country,” said John Etchemendy, former Stanford provost. “Not intolerance along racial or ethnic or gender lines – there, we have made laudable progress. Rather, a kind of intellectual intolerance, a political one-sidedness, that is the antithesis of what universities should stand for.”
Etchemendy proceeded to describe ideological echo chambers, no-platforming of “offensive” speakers and groups, as well as the demands for colleges to take partisan positions, all issues he believes have plagued modern academia.
“We decry certain news outlets as echo chambers, while we fail to notice the echo chamber we’ve built around ourselves,” insisted the former provost. “This results in a kind of intellectual blindness that will, in the long run, be more damaging to universities than cuts in federal funding or ill-conceived constraints on immigration.”
Next, Etchemendy confronted “the all-purpose ad hominem,” saying that those in academia use it because it exceeds reasoned argument in its simplicity and comfort.
“When those making the demands can only imagine ignorance and stupidity on the other side, any resistance will be similarly impugned,” explained the former provost.
“The university is not a megaphone to amplify this or that political view, and when it does it violates a core mission. Universities must remain open forums for contentious debate, and they cannot do so while officially espousing one side of that debate.”
Etchemendy concluded his speech to the Stanford Board of Visitors by saying that the university should advocate for diversity of thought among the teaching faculty, as well as encourage discussions where participants do not consider a conflicting view to be evil or stupid.
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