Confirms what I have been pointing out for years: “many Cornellians are scared to challenge the progressive status quo and speak in opposition to those pushing ideological conformity”
Cornell University has a free expression problem. But you knew that, because you read Legal Insurrection.
I have documented various attempts, almost exclusively from the left, to shut down expression, including in these posts, among others:
- Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums” (2014)
- “I will f**king slap you” – More Cornell anti-Israel intimidation (2014)
- VIDEO: Rick Santorum heckled at Cornell – He responds brilliantly (2016)
- President of Cornell Republicans Physically Assaulted Over Politics (2016)
- Conservative speaker event forced into hiding at Cornell (2017)
- Smear campaign against Cornell prof who opposed grad student unionization (2017)
- WATCH: Pro-Israel Cornell students joyously sing and dance in face of anti-Israel “die in” (2017)
- Cornell Student Bullied After Pointing Out Anti-Trump Bias in Academia on FOX News (2018)
- Cornell students demand Chemistry Prof. David Collum be fired for tweeting that Buffalo incident was not police brutality (2020)
- There’s an effort to get me fired at Cornell for criticizing the Black Lives Matter Movement (2020)
- Will Cornell Apologize To Chemistry Prof. David Collum After Charges Dropped Against Buffalo Cops? (2021)
I emphasize “free expression” rather than “free speech” because it’s not strictly a First Amendment problem on this private campus. It’s a culture problem in which diversity is valued except when it comes to diversity of viewpoint.
The result is a campus culture in which students, faculty, and staff are afraid to speak out. It’s not just me making that observation, a survey released in September 2020 confirmed that Cornell ranks low in campus free speech survey, abysmal on student free expression:
For years I have been documenting the increasingly oppressive atmosphere for free speech at Cornell University, including shout-downs and disruptions of conservative and/or pro-Israel speakers and events. That atmosphere now is in overdrive with a push from the top-down of the admninistration to turn the campus into an exercise is activism, Cornell University takes a major step towards compulsory racial activism for faculty, students, and staff….
My observations that students are scared into silence, and feel the repression, is confirmed by a survey just released which ranks Cornell 40th out of 55 campuses surveyed….
Cornell was ranked 40th out of the 55 schools surveyed. Here is the Cornell write up:
- 29% of students say it is never acceptable to shoutdown a speaker on campus.
- 48% of students are confident that the administration will defend the speaker’s rights in a free speech controversy.
- 81% of students say it is never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.
- Students are most uncomfortable expressing an unpopular opinion on a social media account tied to one’s name.
- Affirmative action is the topic most frequently identified by students as difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus.
Here is the breakdown. Note the very low score for self-expression I have highlighted. Self-expression is defined in the survey as:
“Self-Expression measures the proportion of students who do not report feeling unable to share their perspective at their college. This score is out of 100 points.”
Cornell’s self-expression score is 35.3, meaning that 64.7 percent of students do not feel free to share their perspective.
This is not a liberal versus conservative problem. It’s a problem where a relatively small group of campus activists are able to instill fear even in liberals.
An Op-Ed today in the Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper eloquently describes the problem. The Op-Ed is by students who self-identify as members of the Liberal Caucus of the Cornell Political Union. The CPU is a non-partisan student group that brings speakers to campus to debate students over controversial issues. One of those speakers in the past was Tea Party founder Michael Johns, Sr., who prepared to debate students over his pro-Trump views in 2017. But as we covered, the event almost was cancelled due to student activist threats of disruption.
The self-identified liberal students wrote, in part, Cornell Should Adopt the Chicago Principles:
A little over seven years ago, the University of Chicago issued a report defending free speech on campus. Since then, over eighty institutions or faculty bodies have adopted the report and committed themselves to promote free expression. We write this letter to encourage Cornell to do the same….
As students, we seek good faith discussion and intellectual challenge. Such discourse is difficult, however, when many Cornellians are scared to challenge the progressive status quo and speak in opposition to those pushing ideological conformity. Cornell witnessed the basis of this fear firsthand last year when, in response to Student Assembly members voting against a controversial disarmament measure, many Cornell students engaged in harassment campaigns, bullying, and other shameful behavior to browbeat SA members into changing their votes….
We write as a group of liberals frustrated with the current campus hostility towards free speech and open dialogue. We believe that a repressive campus culture only isolates and radicalizes, but does not eliminate, those with dissenting views. The goal is to win hearts and minds — not to cancel them. While we find the left’s policy goals laudable, we question the tactics used by our fellow students to achieve those goals. It is important to approach others with goodwill and charity, yet oftentimes we struggle to extend these virtues to our peers and friends….
We worry that while many progressives stifle debate with the intention to make others feel included, they ultimately create a culture that is not only exclusive but dogmatic.
I have seen little evidence that the Cornell administration recognizes the anti-free expression problem on campus. While there are flowery statements about freedom of speech, senior administrators joined the mob twice in 2020 in publically denouncing dissident professors. (The university president and senior staff denounced Prof. David Collum, and the then-Dean of Cornell Law School denounced me.) That sets a campus tone of intolerance that students understand.
This Op-Ed by liberal students deserves the attention of the Cornell administration. The campus culture is not well.
[Featured Image: Michael Johns, Sr. addressing Cornell Political Union after event almost cancelled due to student activist threats]DONATE
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