Do You Think “Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity on Campus?”


Ricochet readers, I’d like your help. Next week, I’m doing my first ever Intelligence Squared U.S. debate defending the following resolution: Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity on Campus. This may strike some readers as a little surprising, as you all know FIRE not only defends people all across the spectrum, but also employs people across the spectrum (not to mention I myself identify as a political liberal, as does my debating partner Kirsten Powers). But, I have also never hidden the fact if you’re going to be censored on campus these days, it’s far more likely that you’ll be censored from your left.

Ricochet readers in the D.C. area should come in person. Those who can’t attend should tune in online. The winner is determined by how many people decide to change his or her vote, and given that I’ll be doing this debate at George Washington University, I wonder how many will be willing to do that!

As I previously mentioned, my debate partner will be Kirsten Powers, a columnist for USA Today and a FOX News contributor. The panelists arguing against the motion are Angus Johnston, a historian of student activism and the founder of, along with Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University.

As the president of FIRE and author of Unlearning Liberty, and Freedom From Speech, I have a wealth of examples to prove my point.

However, I wanted to ask you: what do you think the most damning data are that prove this point?

What is the most harrowing example you have of the left’s intolerance on campus?

Is there a single damning quote from, say, a university president, dean, or prominent professor that comes to mind?

I don’t want to show my hand for the debate, so I won’t be adding my own examples or comments, but I’m sure that in the hive mind that is Ricochet there are some examples I have forgotten or never knew in the first place.

I hope you’ll let me know your thoughts and then tune in on Tuesday!

What: Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on whether “Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity on Campus”

When: Tuesday, February 24, 2015; 5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. debate

Where: Jack Morton Auditorium at George Washington University, 805 21st St. NW (in the School of Media and Public Affairs, corner of H and 21st NW), Washington, D.C. 20052

Tickets: $30 for adults; $10 for GWU students. Members of the press, journalists, and columnists who wish to cover or attend the debate are encouraged to contact Katie Barrows, FIRE’s Communications Coordinator, for press access to the event. She can be reached at

Live Stream: Starts at 6 p.m. on the day of the debate on the IQ2US website, under “Live Streaming”

There are 22 comments.

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  1. user_1008534 Member

    It’d be hard to do better than this 2004 quote from Duke Philosophy Department Chairman Professor Robert Brandon:
    “We try to hire the best, smartest people available. . . . If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. . . . Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too.”

    • #1
  2. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue

    As exhibits A, B,C and D in the affirmative  I give you the names of four friends/acquaintances: Guillermo Gonzalez, Martin Gaskell, Mark Regnerus and Kenneth J. Howell. Google  at your leisure.

    • #2
  3. Ricochet Inactive

    Just go to either of the best college culture websites out right now, College Fix or Campus Reform, and you will have all you need to not only win this debate but completely dismantle the opposition’s arguments.  From “free speech zones” to withholding student union funding to certain student groups that are demonstrably not on the Left, there is no doubt that your average college campus is about Communist indoctrination and not about education or free intellectual inquiry.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member

    Mr. Lukianoff:

    “[I]t’s far more likely that you’ll be censored from your left” ?!?  Can you give me one example of a right-wing censorship policy in recent memory?  And I mean regarding political or intellectual speech, not that left-wing nonsense about applying First Amendment protection to obscenity and snuff videos.

    I do salute you and Ms. Powers for your commitment to free speech.  Such champions of common values are becoming increasingly rare on the left side of the political spectrum.

    • #4
  5. user_129539 Member

    If you want to win the debate with the audience, use a narrative argument about the pain and suffering of conservatives from liberal propagators, which is backed by highly emotionally charged stories. Especially do this at the end your debate. Also make sure to highlight how you are a liberal.

    This is the type of argument   typically win the debates on issues people have no opinions on coming in. The merits of the argument and facts typical have very little to do with persuading a majority of these audiences.

    Now if you want to persuade the general listening audience, well do the same. Got to love

    • #5
  6. MJBubba Inactive

    It’s at GWU ?

    You’re doomed.

    • #6
  7. MJBubba Inactive

    As one motivating factor consider religion.   Conservatives are much more likely to be adherents of traditional religions.   Professors are much less likely, than even typical liberals, to belong to any traditional religion.   See the Gross and Simmons paper from 2006.

    The U.C. Hastings Law School comes to mind as an example.    Ditto Vanderbilt.

    • #7
  8. GFHandle Member

    In addition to the official stuff (hiring, speech codes, propaganda pretending to be scholarship, etc.) don’t leave out the often unpunished thugs and brown-shirts with blow horns who prevent speakers from being heard.

    • #8
  9. MJBubba Inactive

    How about the graduate schools of psychology who will not admit a candidate who holds a traditionalist version of Christianity?

    Does the CDC count?

    A federal appeals court in Atlanta maintained an earlier ruling that the rights of a former counselor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were not violated when she was fired for refusing to advise an employee in a same-sex relationship. (2012)

    • #9
  10. MJBubba Inactive

    An African Anglican Bishop had a Dartmouth deanship position rescinded, because once upon a time he supported traditional Christian teachings:

    media criticism of the coverage by Mollie’s friends:

    contains this quote from an un-named member of the Dartmouth faculty: 

    “In this case, the left refused even to recognize him as one of their own.  He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community.  I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.”

    • #10
  11. John Fitzgerald Inactive
    John Fitzgerald


    If someone (*hello interns*) at FIRE could search Campus Reform, The College Fix, and Reason & National Review’s back issues, they likely will find a litany of cases of conservative newspapers being stolen, signs for conservative speakers being stolen, and the shouting down of conservative speakers.  (or being “pied”–>Bill Kristol/Ann Coulter)  Since you are on the front lines of the violations of Freedom of Speech on public university campuses, I am sure you can cite a plethora of cases that will disarm your opponents’ strongest arguments.

    Here are some recent incidents:

    Liberal Fascism sign stolen

    A speech by Rep. Tom Tancredo at Michigan State University turned ugly Thursday night as protesters pulled fire alarms, spat at the audience and fought with the event’s student organizers.

    Whether in my undergraduate education in history or in law school, I found that the assigned reading list was a major obstacle to the free exchange of ideas.  In undergrad, if all of the texts were different points of view from the progressive perspective (Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory etc.), how do students evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and alternatives to the limited number of ideas they are exposed to?  How do students who hold progressive views counter arguments they have never been exposed to?

    In terms of the stifling of the free exchange of ideas, law school casebooks are pretty grim.  The cases are sandwiched between law review articles and excerpts almost exclusively advocating the progressive point of view.

    In the future, it would be fascinating for some organization(s) to examine and quantify the ideological point of view of assigned readings on university campuses to evaluate the exposure that students are getting to a variety of ideas, which is the prerequisite to an authentic free exchange of ideas.

    Best of luck to you in your debate, and I highly recommend that anyone who thinks the free exchange of ideas on American campuses is crucial to the future of America, read your tremendous book, Unlearning Liberty. (This is linked through Ricochet, so they get a cut from Amazon.)

    • #11
  12. user_370242 Member

    This may strike some readers as a little surprising, as you all know FIRE not only defends people all across the spectrum, but also employs people across the spectrum (not to mention I myself identify as a political liberal, as does my debating partner Kirsten Powers). But, I have also never hidden the fact if you’re going to be censored on campus these days, it’s far more likely that you’ll be censored from your left.

    Haven’t read your book yet, but from the reviews it is clear that you are hard fighting first amendment lawyer. What exactly does “it’s more likely you’ll be censored from your left” mean? Is the right engaging in censorship these days? See Arizona Patriot above. I’d be a lot more interested if your debating partner was David Horowitz instead of Kirsten Powers. But since this is a liberal v liberal debate his presence might set off a pie throwing jamboree.

    • #12
  13. PsychLynne Inactive

    I find the party registration/donations statistics quite damning, but the left tends to reply that conservatives aren’t interested/smart enough/too focused on economic gain/not suited for a life of the mind, etc.  You need a good come back for that.  I don’t know what it is, but I can’t wait to tune in online and find out.

    • #13
  14. MJBubba Inactive

    Greg L., at the Intelligence Squared U.S. site you linked to, one of the comments gets to the difference between “liberal” and leftism.

    I think you will need to make sure that there is a definition put in place for clarification.   This would best be done beforehand, by the moderator.   I presume that you are using “liberal” as it is now commonly used in American media to mean progressive, pro-change, opposed to traditionalist values and structures, in favor of socialist modifications to our economic system, etc.

    • #14
  15. A Beleaguered Conservative Member
    A Beleaguered Conservative

    Good luck at the debate.

    • #15
  16. MJBubba Inactive

    When have conservative students ever persuaded a State University to cancel a contract with a private company on the basis that the views of the owners was not sufficiently conservative?

    Didn’t think so.


    • #16
  17. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff

    Thank you, everyone! As I said, I am not tipping my hat to any args I might make, so I’m not going to respond to questions or suggestions just yet.

    I am a little concerned that since they put this debate together so quickly the turn out might not be great, so if you know folks in the DC area please tell them to come out, if you know journos please tell them to contact for possible comps. And please tune in Tuesday night!

    • #17
  18. MJBubba Inactive

    Eric Metaxas spoke at Suwanee.   His speech went off; there was no shouting-down, or that sort of bad behavior.   But, the reaction is guaranteed to cause any student who agrees with Metaxas to keep his mouth shut.

    Metaxas wrote about the experience:

    Cogent media critics noticed:

    At the bottom of the GetReligion column is a link to the speech.

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Thatcher

    I will admit, if I had a chance I would have stolen that sign and put it on my wall because its AWESOME!

    Is there any chance we can get something like that added to the Ricochet Store?

    As to the original question, I think that scene where the Liberal Professor steals the Abortionist poster and is caught on film, is pretty damning.

    • #19
  20. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff

    The convo in the comments on Facebook about the event are getting pretty heated! Check em out:

    • #20
  21. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff

    Hey everyone, the debate happened last night and we won by a strong margin (even at GW). Thank you for all of your suggestions! And you can check it out at:

    • #21
  22. A Beleaguered Conservative Member
    A Beleaguered Conservative

    Greg Lukianoff:Hey everyone, the debate happened last night and we won by a strong margin (even at GW). Thank you for all of your suggestions! And you can check it out at:

    Fantastic.  Great work.  Great debate.

    • #22

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