We’ve grown accustomed to seeing news reports of college students shutting down speakers, targeting professors and harassing students for minor infractions and dissident opinions. But do these incidents actually represent the main body of students in higher education?
No, argues one professor—and he might know better than any of us, since he’s been the target of one of those mobs himself.
At The Washington Examiner, Samuel Abrams—a professor at Sarah Lawrence College who came under attack last year for reporting on the lopsided political opinions of campus administrators—writes that he has encountered students who have “fears of being bullied and silenced by liberal student mobs.” These students, he writes, “are well aware of how mobs can quickly form and turn on someone for questioning and challenging certain ideas. Students know that they are entering a climate where speakers are shouted down and silenced.”
As frightening as these “real reputational risks” are, Abrams advises students to “be bold and steadfast in questioning campus liberal orthodoxy.” Why? “Because these mobs do not reflect the reality of the student body:”
The reality on campus is that these mobs are run by small minorities of students and activist administrators. In contrast, today’s students as a whole are far more open and balanced than newsstories reveal. In fact, students want to embrace a diversity of views while on campus.
The most recent report from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), for instance, shows that only 4% of incoming first year students in 2017 identify as far-left with 2% being on the far right. This is hardly a large group of students on the extremes In fact, 41% of incoming students ideologically identify as being middle of the road while 36% identify as being liberal or on the Left and the remaining 23% hold that they are conservative or are on the Right…
[T]he data tell a very clear story: Incoming students are interested in a multiplicity of ideas and experiences and take pride in their ability to absorb, confront, engage, and react to these varied views. Students are not particularly liberal in general and myopic in terms of how they want to engage with ideas and each other either — they want to empathize and understand.
“Students who push back for real viewpoint diversity may be surprised by just how many allies they will find all around them,” Abrams writes.
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