WASHINGTON, DC—The Miller Center at the University of Virginia, a nonpartisan affiliate of the university dedicated to the study of the American presidency, recently took a principled stand in support of diversity of thought by defending its decision to appoint former White House legislative affairs director Marc Short to a year-long senior fellowship. Critics—including two faculty members who have since resigned from the Center—have argued that Mr. Short’s association with the Trump administration violates the Center’s values of nonpartisanship, transparency, and civility. William Antholis, director of the Center, pointed out in a statement to the university community that “this appointment also speaks to a greater challenge for all of us: welcoming someone back into our community to begin a robust and hard conversation about the future of our democracy, and doing so in an environment that prioritizes rational and respectful discourse.”
Dr. Antholis’s remarks highlight the important role that the higher education community plays in ensuring the health of America’s civic institutions. For democratic values to prevail, colleges and universities must model them for the next generation by insisting that ideas prevail (or do not prevail) based only on their merits, and not by censorship or coercion. This requires that institutions hold steadfast to the free exchange of ideas, even those which may be unpopular or controversial.
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