Civics: Free Speech, or not at St Vincent

Jeffrey Anderson:

The conference featured one compelling presentation after another, all of which are now posted online. It was a rich opportunity for students to hear viewpoints outside of the academic mainstream so dominated by the groupthink Left. Scott Atlas, Jeffrey Tucker, Wilfred Reilly, and I all gave presentations on the ill-advised response to Covid, during which scientific knowledge and centuries of Western norms were often abandoned in favor of costly and coercive lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccine requirements. Allison Stanger talked about Big Tech and the threat it poses to our republic. David Azerrad discussed the tension between racial preferences and colorblind justice. Keith Whitaker gave an interesting and nuanced account of the history of financial panics and what they tell us about human nature. Johnny Burtka offered students helpful advice gleaned from great books. And Jacob Howland capped things off by talking about how our “crisis of logos”—our decreasing willingness, or ability, to engage in meaningful discussions about the great questions of our day, or any day—requires our full attention and commitment to reverse.

As if on cue, St. Vincent’s administration promptly confirmed this crisis of logos. After a few of the many students who had attended Azerrad’s talk complained about it, President Taylor and his administration initially censored the publication not only of the video of Azerrad’s presentation but also of the videos of the other eight conference presentations as well, as Howland recounted for City Journal. After being pressured by national organizations that fight for freedom of speech, the administration subsequently relented on posting the videos. But then it promptly took aim at the Center that Watson has built, giving every indication that the administration is determined to make this the final such free-flowing Culture and Policy Conference that St. Vincent College will ever allow.