Higher education scholar Adam Kissel has proposed a combination of reforms to address the lack of free speech on college campuses and the tendency to silence and rebuke unpopular opinions in the quad and classroom.
While typical reforms on this topic often approach the issue from the outside — such as legislation and lawsuits — Kissel proposes a cultural shift on campus that prioritizes tackling the problem through promoting “a culture of empowerment, self-determination, and personal responsibility.”
Kissel is a senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy and visiting scholar at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, as well as the former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education and former vice president of programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Writing for the American Enterprise Institute, he proposes five reforms to enact his vision:
Reform Admissions. Applicants without intellectual humility or who cannot develop it quickly are not ready for intellectual pursuits. Applicants who appear likely to become the fringe students who take over buildings, shout down speakers, argue that violence against offensive speakers is justified, and so on should be screened out until they do not present a significant risk of unlawful conduct against the campus community.
Reform Residence Life. In colleges with on-campus housing, administrators spring into action and encourage Stasi-like reporting on one’s neighbors whenever there is an expression of so-called bias. Instead, administrators should remind students to address “bad” speech with “better” speech and to intellectually challenge one another rather than polarize and ostracize around factions.
Reform the Curriculum. Students deserve an education that prepares them for life off campus in a diverse, free society. … Courses about American culture that do attempt to “raise consciousness” tend to teach resentment of America or promote the stereotypes of “cultural competence,” teaching students to treat people as representatives of oppressor or oppressed identity groups. …
Train Administrators in Crisis Management on Matters of Free Expression. Too many deans and presidents react quickly and incorrectly when a controversy arises and then get a black eye for overreaching and must walk back their statements and actions, tail between their legs. …
Model Good Behavior. In addition to reacting appropriately to speech representing a minority view, all academic, administrative, and student groups can lead proactively by modeling and inviting healthy debate in conversations, classrooms, conferences, and other speaking events.
These reforms, enacted together, would create a “cultural” shift on campus that respects freedom of speech and expression, Kissel states.