The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Executive Council and The Wellesley College Republicans co- hosted an event called “Problems on Single Payer” by Dr. Chris Pope on Nov. 15. The event was meant to foster dialogue from both sides of the aisle on health care, and it did just that, despite the tearing down of our posters and having them replaced with vulgar posters denouncing the event. Approximately 30 people showed up at the event, and although one of the members was very uncomfortable with what our speaker was presenting, she nevertheless listened to the lecture and asked her question without inciting violence.
I am president of the AEI Executive Council. The Executive Council tries to promote conversations about public policy through lectures by AEI or other af liated think tank researchers, private dinners with scholars, student debates and reading groups. The American Enterprise Institute is a conservative-leaning think tank that advocates for “expanding freedom, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening the free enterprise system in America and around the world.” Because our president, Arthur Brooks, is such a strong advocate for the poor in America, I’m happy to be a part of such a great think tank. At conferences hosted by the think tank, I’ve met inspiring students from seemingly liberal colleges like Berkeley, Middlebury, Mizzou, Dartmouth and others who prove that AEI isn’t just full of Republicans but includes libertarians, moderates and liberals.
Tearing down and replacing our posters with vulgar posters is unacceptable, immature and cowardly. It’s obvious what this person’s motive was—it was to intimidate. It was to make anyone who was interested in going feel like they were horrible people who deserved to “eat s***.” I was angry that people at Wellesley, a school founded on promoting free speech, could do this. I was worried for the speaker and my members’ safety. I was scared that people saw me as a bigot, which is far from the truth.
This behavior isn’t only present at Wellesley College. Protestors from Middlebury College banned Charles Murray from speaking by standing up and chanting, “Middlebury says no way, Charles Murray, go away.” Protesters from University of Wisconsin shouted at Ben Shapiro, “This is our university, fuck white supremacy.” 200 pro-life posters were torn down at Loyola Marymount University. Wesleyan College activists sent out a petition to boycott and revoke funding of the school newspaper “The Argus” because someone wrote a column against Black Lives Matter.
It has become too commonplace to label conservative leaning speakers as racist, sexist, elitist and homophobic without knowing the person’s true intentions and what the person will speak about. I feel that in this regard, identity politics has gone too far. Even Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a commencement speaker at Wellesley, complained about identity politics. “To insist that you have to speak in a certain way and use certain expressions, otherwise we cannot have a conversation… can close up debate.” As a result of this language policing, echo chambers are commonplace in environments where the majority of people hold the same beliefs. If two people agree on an issue, it strengthens their opinion and makes them feel right, even if facts and statistics show otherwise.
When Samuel J. Abrams interpreted the Heterodox Academy’s ranking of schools with the most free speech, he left a harrowing note: “The ranking has revealed that New England is by far the worst region of the country, especially for liberal-arts colleges, when it comes to campuses that support and maintain viewpoint diversity.”
One of the reasons why I believe this is the case is the lack of conservative professors on college campuses. According to Gross and Simmons, 2007; Klein and Stern, 2009 and Rothman and Lichter, 2008, “58-66 percent of social science professors in the United States identify as liberals, while only 5-8 percent identify as conservatives, and that self-identifying Democrats outnumber Republicans by ratios of at least 8 to 1.” Social sciences are subjective and open to multiple different interpretations, which allows professors to insert their own personal biases and beliefs into lecture material.
Another possible explanation for the state of free speech in college campuses is the bias shown in and outside of classes. A Brandeis University student who wanted to be kept anonymous commented, “There’s the econ professor who cracks jokes about Republicans during lectures.” Williams College offers a class called “Racial Capitalism,” which describes how capitalist economies have “always and everywhere relied upon forms of racist domination and exclusion.” Naweed, a Republican student at Berkeley, sadly said, “As a Republican on campus I am targeted frequently. I have been spit on on several occasions. I have had drinks thrown on me. I have been punched in the face.”
I fear that some college students are not adequately preparing themselves for a world who won’t hold the same views as them. The fact of the matter is that we’re going to encounter people very different from us on a day-to-day basis, and these people will have different opinions. We need to learn how to respectfully have dialogue with those people and treat them as human beings before throwing around accusations and alienating them.