Rob Montz, a 2005 graduate of Brown University and a documentary filmmaker whose recent project explored how universities are killing free speech and debate, has sounded off in a USA TODAY op-ed on one of the biggest roadblocks to fixing what’s wrong with higher education: feckless administrators.
He writes, using Brown as an example:
It’s not new for college students to indulge in self-righteous certainty, to be so intoxicated by a grand moral mission that they can’t see any value in hearing what the other side has to say. What is new: administrators who bend to their will.
Late last fall, after a campus police officer allegedly assaulted a visiting latino student named Geovanni Cuevas, students openly threatened to oust President Paxson if she didn’t breach due process protocols. Soon thereafter, transgender author Janet Mock was bullied into cancelling a speech by online petitioners objecting to her chosen venue, the local chapter of the Jewish group Hillel. And activists disrupted a white alum’s performance of Hindu chants, pelting her with breathless accusations of “cultural appropriation.” In every case, the administration’s response was limp or non-existent. …
Students are on a hair-trigger, eager to turn minor slights into examples of “structural” oppression and assume nefarious motives in critics. They regularly deploy an insidious rhetorical sleight-of-hand that equates the mental discomfort of hearing adverse opinions with real, physical violence. Those who question affirmative action, rape culture or other planks of the prevailing campus orthodoxy aren’t just wrong; they’re making the campus “unsafe.”
These tactics don’t spark conversation. They choke it off. And left unchecked, the activists peddling them will continue to degrade the campus climate President Paxson and other college administrators claim to value.
Here’s more coverage of Montz’s documentary: