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‘Why I Cover Campus Controversies’

Coverage of higher ed controversies often dominates the news cycle these days. Some critics complain that it’s not worth covering at all, however—that what happens on college campuses are more or less unimportant and irrelevant to the wider world.

One writer at The Atlantic argues otherwise, writing that “universities deserve to be scrutinized by those who care about them.”

Noting the perennial free speech issues on college campuses, Conor Friedersdorf writes that “campus-speech restrictions jeopardize society’s ability to seek truth and advance knowledge in the very institutions ostensibly dedicated to those pursuits, even as they tend to undermine justice and equity.”

Friedersdorf points out that many present-day liberals, convinced that the political rise of Donald Trump represents a fascistic threat to the United States, believe that covering “campus excesses” is a waste of time, possibly a dangerous one; he cites one writer who believes that much higher ed coverage constitutes “cynical, sinister propaganda” by evil right-wing forces.

Friedersdorf himself criticizes “right-wing efforts to weaken higher education,” though he doesn’t cite any examples of this. He notes, however, that, his political concerns aside, higher ed remains an important subject to cover:

No matter who is president, universities deserve to be scrutinized by those who care about them as the country’s most influential incubators of scientific research and social ideas that tend to spread into business, media, and art. They warrant critical scrutiny as centers of training for every era’s power-wielding elites, as places of civil acculturation, as corporations with sizable assets, as huge recipients of taxpayer money, as hotbeds of political activism for good and ill, and as a good that some prominent politicians want to provide free to everyone at great cost to the treasury.

Read the article here.

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