“A true university is a collection of books.” This quote from Thomas Carlyle is etched into a column of the Pattee-Paterno Library at the Pennsylvania State University. When you think about this quote, it really does stand out as truth. The books in the various libraries around campus contain arguments, theories, and postulations on topics from gender studies to nanotechnology to weather patterns. They discuss new ideas and old ideas. These books and the information they contain are what make a university truly great and creates generations of educated individuals.
The dialogue and discussion that surround academics and learning are highly valuable. When debate is cut off simply because the ideas discussed are unpopular, learning is also cut off. This is the very problem that is manifesting on college campuses around America and Canada.
The Ben Shapiro event held almost a year ago was the closest we have had to an anti-free speech incident. There were about a hundred or more protesters outside the doors of 121 Sparks chanting “Let us in” as well as pre-made, robotic chants frequently implored by today’s leftist fascists. Inside the event itself, however, it was quiet and respectful. These were liberal students in the room who respectfully heard him and even intensely questioned him afterwards. This form of learning through meaningful dialogue exemplifies the quote of Thomas Carlyle and is how all discussions should be held.
But the scene of college campuses is getting worse, especially in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. The frozen forest of the special snowflakes is warming to a new conservative era. Maybe, they will blame this on climate change like everything from White Flight to people’s attitudes on feminism. With this thaw, the leftists are coming unhinged, lashing out at everything that is “intolerant.” But in their quest for tolerance, they are completely intolerant to people of ideas contrary to their own.
Recent example were events from Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley to Gavin McGinnes at NYU and most notably, Charles Murray at Middlebury. In the beginning of February, the university that began the free speech movement was the same university that saw violent riots over a speaker. They effectively shut down Yiannopoulos, a gay, Jewish conservative, and caused violence and destruction of property. These same tolerant liberals also hit a Syrian Muslim man with a rod because “he looked like a Nazi” and pepper sprayed a white woman. But, hey, Trump and other white supremacists are the homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic, misogynists here, not Antifa.
McGinnes had a violent incident at an event at NYU in the beginning of February as well. Antifa, again, showed up to disrupt the event with protests outside, even setting a man’s “Make America Great Again” hat on fire. After a scuffle between Antifa and McGinnes supporters which saw 11 people get arrested for minor violations.
The latest occurrence of egregious violations of free speech happened at Middlebury College. Charles Murray, the controversial writer of Bell Curves and Coming Apart, was set to have a dialogue with a (liberal) professor at the college. Around half the attendants stood during the speech and turned their backs to him. They then began to shout him down with the same mass produced, overused, and unoriginal chants. My favorite is “Racist, Sexist, Anti-gay, Charles Murray go away.”
When the speech was moved to another room, to be live-streamed, the agitators found the room and continued to cause a disturbance and pull fire alarms. As the female professor and Murray left the campus, they got into a violent confrontation with a group of protestors. This confrontation saw the liberal professor hospitalized and in need of a neck brace. But, again, Murray is a sexist.
These led to a kind of waiting-with-baited-breath anticipation surrounding Charles Murray’s visit to Notre Dame as part of a class on Constitutional Law. It was a large moment because various groups made threats demanding that Murray be dis-invited as well as for protests if the speech were not cancelled. But the professor that invited Murray held his ground and even wrote an open letter as to why he would not dis-invite Murray. Like most non leftist events held at universities, Charles Murray arrival was met with protests, but a healthy, old fashion debate still occurred. You know, the kind where both sides discuss and argue their points, but most people are respectful and calm. With this event Notre Dame is affirming itself as a true university by allowing Charles Murray to be in its collection of books, rather than banning him and his work based on emotional reactions.