Now is the time to debate with renewed vigor existential questions of what counts as justice and how to fashion an equitable society. But the stifling of dissent is impeding the search for answers and driving people who disagree still further apart. Because students like to push boundaries and professors like to argue, colleges and universities are a crucible.
Take the university where I teach, Princeton. The campus—or at least the online campus, in the age of the coronavirus—has been in uproar since early July over a letter of demands to the administration signed by hundreds of my faculty colleagues, and especially over my response to that letter. I was immediately denounced on social media and condemned publicly by my department and the university president. At the same time, the university spokesman announced ominously that the administration would be “looking into the matter further.” On July 14, the Journal’s editorial board commented: “Princeton is demonstrating how a lack of leadership enables the cancel culture.”