By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
If you’ve followed RTDNA at all during the past few months, you’ve seen our nearly daily posts about the challenges facing the free press in this acrimonious political climate. Our Voice of the First Amendment Task Force is committed to standing watch and calling out all the attacks on today’s journalists.
But what you haven’t seen nearly as much is coverage of another very important tenet of the First Amendment. That is the freedom of speech. And there have been attacks on that, too. Now, there is a small effort by some colleges and universities who are pledging to become more tolerant of diverse views no matter regardless of whether they’re “politically correct.”
About a dozen schools – among them the University of Chicago, University of California/Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University – have signed onto a new doctrine that puts free speech above concerns about political correctness. Some of the schools have allowed protestors to halt speeches and other events by individuals such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos.
University of Chicago Provost Daniel Diermeier said the principle of viewpoint diversity is at the core of the university’s mission. “We believe that the best education we can provide students to prepare them for the world is to hear diverse points of view even if they feel uncomfortable,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Diermeier is correct. Institutions of higher education should be among the first places where divergent opinions are not only tolerated, but encouraged. And students should embrace the rights of all to hear and read those viewpoints, regardless of whether they personally agree with them.
At a time when our society has become increasingly fractured, both politically and socially, it is vitally important we embrace all aspects of the First Amendment, whether it be free speech, a free press, the freedom of assembly or religious freedom. These freedoms are among those which separate America from so many other world nations.
We hope this affirmation by some of the nation’s leading universities will lead to more tolerance on campus. And we also hope other schools will join in the effort.