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Liberal groupthink causes conservatives to self-censor

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The ideal academic environment on a college campus is one that encourages vigorous debate and builds reasoning skills, all while the student is learning in his or her area of study.

Unfortunately, universities too often fall short in the first two categories.

For at least six years now, the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine has made a habit of inviting inflammatory speakers on campus. One speaker declared, “We will bury you in the sand,” while implying death to either a nation (Israel) or a group of people (Jews). While another said, “You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew,” when explaining why he believes Jews have a social pathology that makes it impossible for them to live in peace with anyone else.

Such comments elicited not a peep from a university faculty presumably too concerned with tolerance to criticize speech that crossed the line from commentary to hate. What might make the professionals at UCI reluctant to speak up against hate speech? Imagine the uproar if former klansman David Duke showed up at UCI and said, “You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew” or if Duke referred to African Americans when saying, “We will bury you?”

A study of almost 1,300 academics from more than 700 colleges and universities by Gary A. Tobin, Ph.D., and Aryeh K. Weinberg show an American faculty that is overwhelmingly liberal in the key areas of the humanities and the social sciences — two fields with tremendous influence, as all students, even science and business students, have to take some liberal arts courses to graduate. Further, professors from the humanities and the social sciences are those whose area of expertise is politics and social commentary.

Tobin and Weinberg’s 2006 survey, “Political Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty,” showed that 58% of humanities faculty believe that U.S. policies in the Middle East have created the problems we face in the region. Similarly, 56% of humanities professors see the U.S. and Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, while only 41% name China, Russia, and Iran combined.

Further, social science faculty voted for John Kerry over President Bush in 2004 by more than a four-to-one ratio while five times as many humanities professors preferred Kerry over Bush. This has led to liberal groupthink, causing the few conservative professors to engage in self-censorship as a survival mechanism.

For these reasons, condemning hate speech by Muslim Student Union speakers may be too much to expect from a faculty who likely sees Middle Eastern Arabs as victims of the West. Rather, a modest step would be to prohibit the student union and any other group from banning the audio or video recording of events so that all campus speech can be heard and commented on freely. Knowing that their words may come back to haunt them may even make a few hate speakers think twice before spewing.


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