WASHINGTON, DC—Our society has real socioeconomic and racial challenges. Of all places, the American university should be the sanctuary where free discussion can take place to deal with these most pressing of issues. Historically, the mission of our colleges has been teaching, learning and the pursuit of truth. It was traditionally the honor of the professoriate to provide objective, impartial guidance in addressing the challenges our society has faced and to model such reasoned behavior for rising generations of students. Rational debate and the free exchange of ideas have been essential to that mission. Our colleges and universities have welcomed those who would challenge widely held beliefs and speak their mind.
However, events at Yale and Missouri and institutions across the country show that these bedrock purposes of the university—teaching and learning—are in peril. An atmosphere of coercion, a culture of offense and raw emotions rather than reason are stifling real education and inquiry. Rather than demanding difficult discussions, too many on our campuses are seeking to apologize and retreat.
If we as a people are serious about addressing the difficult challenges of human freedom, dignity and equality, it’s time for universities to return to first principles and join forces in defense of free speech, vigorous debate and the fearless pursuit of truth. If they do not, the future of our democracy will be on the line.
Anne D. Neal
American Council of Trustees and Alumni
ACTA is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.
Director of Communications