Trustees | Intellectual Diversity

Rescinding an Honor for an Anti-Islam Activist

NEW YORK TIMES   |  April 11, 2014 by Anne D. Neal

Re “Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Rights Advocate, a Critic of Islam” (news article, April 9):

Justice Louis D. Brandeis would be turning over in his grave. The university named after the former Supreme Court justice has illustrated the depths of small-minded bigotry and intolerance that now represent the culture on many campuses.

In rescinding an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Brandeis University has abandoned academic freedom and responsibility. Disinviting a controversial figure for fear of student backlash and upset sensitivities sends a perverse message that a college education must never dare offend.

How ironic that it was Justice Brandeis himself who understood that the essence of the free exchange of ideas—something to which virtually all universities nominally adhere—is “to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies,” not by “enforced silence.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has been watching the spectacle of “disinvitation season,” when universities cave in to the loudest bullies.

We call on the Brandeis trustees in particular and higher education leaders everywhere to withstand this trend and to stand firm in defense of the free exchange of ideas—the essence of a liberal education.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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