Would Universities Defend Dissident Voices?

Wall Street Journal:

Lively and Fearless Freedom

If I were to find myself in the cross-hairs of the social-media mob, any call for defense from my university would likely fall on deaf ears. Defending me amid such an attack would not serve the school’s interests. Colleges today are often more concerned with placating a political mob than being a robust and uninhibited venue for speech.

Any optimism should turn to pessimism when considering whether an institution will defend the right to express diverse and unpopular opinions. Outside academia, private businesses have no responsibility to defend their employees’ opinions, since their chief responsibility is their bottom line. But publicly funded universities have a duty to support the First Amendment, and even private universities should seriously uphold their role as places for the free exchange of ideas.

My university does not have to defend my ideas, but it must defend the freedom to express those ideas. All educational institutions should take a lesson from the University of Chicago and adopt the Chicago Principles: a commitment to recognize the responsibility to “promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.” Anything but a total commitment to these principles would be antithetical to the mission of an educational institution.

—Richard Hammond III, Ohio State University, political science and French