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Jesse Saffon

http://www.popecenter.org/about/author.html?id=626

joined the Pope Center in the summer of 2013 as a writer and editor. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and the College of Charleston, where he studied economics. Saffron has also studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
In addition to writing articles and editing website content, Saffron manages the Pope Center's summer internship program. He also is a frequent contributor to the National Review's higher education blog, Phi Beta Cons.

Saffron plays classical guitar, hikes, and watches basketball during his leisure time.

 

Viewpoint Diversity is the Real Campus Issue That Needs Addressing 

The tumultuous, racially charged demonstrations that rocked American campuses this fall show few signs of abating. In fact, they’re spreading across the country because student activists have been emboldened by their “successes.” For example, at the University of Missouri, the president and chancellor resigned amid protests (even the football team threatened to go on strike) regarding allegations of racism on campus and the administration’s refusal to address them. In response, the UM system announced the creation of a chief diversity, inclusion, and equity officer and various diversity initiatives. Common threads running throughout the campus upheavals include attacks on principles of free speech and the willingness of school officials to mollify students and cede control to leftist protesters. Given higher education’s track record, however, both developments are unsurprising. Universities long have preached the gospel of social justice through politicized degree programs, course work, and university policies. For years, there has been a proliferation of gender, black, and gay studies programs and a host of other partisan “studies” fields. Meanwhile, universities have ramped up multiculturalism “training” for students, professors, and administrators. The campuses also have treated students as customers to be appeased at all costs to keep the money flowing. The mind-set born of the combination of political correctness and consumerism has brought about policies that attempt to “protect” students’ emotional well-being — usually at the expense of scholarly debate and the open exchange of ideas. Schools have disinvited campus speakers who offend the sensibilities of left-leaning students. They’ve given credence to illiberal concepts such as “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.” The initial result has been the debasement of campus discourse, increased cultural and racial division, and diminished academic standards. But we are witnessing an even more disturbing trend: Much of academia is being turned on its head, with the least knowledgeable and least mature members of the academic community assuming command based on their emotions. Protests started by individual campus events and by events outside academia have coalesced into a powerful national movement. Actual authorities cravenly submit to their demands, and one is tempted to think of such historical anti-intellectual movements as the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao Zedong or the Italian monk Savonarola’s “bonfires of the vanities.” Under the banners of “racial equality” and “solidarity,” some of the protesters — who have aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement and other nonacademic liberal causes — have shunned civil debate entirely. At Dartmouth College, protesters stormed a library, shouting racial epithets at white students trying to study. At Yale University, a student screamed at a school official whose wife (also a Yale employee) had had the temerity to suggest that administrators should not regulate “offensive” Halloween costumes worn by students. More problematic than these and related incidents, however, has been universities’ timid responses. Out of fear of public shaming and protest, school officials have caved to this new movement’s politically correct thought police. As mentioned above, some have resigned, and others have promised to spend millions on diversity and racial sensitivity programs. But perspective is important. The truculent protesters on campus represent a very small fraction of the total student population. And while some agree with those protesters and their tactics, many others do not. There are signs that students want administrators to restore civility and reopen the marketplace of ideas on campus. So it’s time for university leaders to stop allowing a small minority of militant activists to control university policies and campus dialogue. Rather than kowtow to the fringe and waste resources on diversity initiatives and cultural re-education programs, which have abysmal track records, universities should use recent events as a broader opportunity to learn. In the coming months, instead of fear, university leaders should show “solidarity” around the First Amendment, intellectual vitality, and real diversity — viewpoint diversity, which is sorely lacking on many campuses. They can remind students that coercion and the stifling of opposing views — no matter how offensive they may be — hurt one’s cause and social progress itself. The Black Lives Matter movement and other movements in the broader culture are free to behave as they wish; on college campuses, however, higher standards must be maintained and cherished. In the end, this is a struggle to restore the spirit of higher education. Administrators, particularly at public universities, should think long and hard about their proper role and the trajectory of campus culture. Unfortunately, for many, it seems too difficult a task. After all, they created the university according to their beliefs, and the protesters are their intellectual progeny. CJ Jesse Saffron is a senior writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy