The Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to maintaining viewpoint diversity as well as freedom of speech on college campuses, has taken the list of America’s top 150 colleges and universities and ranked them according to how well each meets the Academy’s aims of promoting or not suppressing viewpoint diversity. It’s really about whether these schools allow students to speak freely, express unorthodox opinions without demonization, and adhere to the Chicago Principles of Free Speech (see the link below; this is not the letter sent out by the dean to this year’s incoming students.) Here are the Academy’s criteria:
Our guide to colleges helps you evaluate schools on this question by integrating these four sources of information:
- Endorsed Chicago: Whether the university has endorsed the Chicago Principles on free expression
- FIRE Rating: Whether the school’s speech codes foster or infringe upon free speech. As rated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
- ISI Rating: Is the school a reasonably welcoming place for conservative and libertarian students? Obtained from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) guide to Choosing the Right College. (We presume that open-minded progressive students would prefer not to attend a school at which students who are not on the left feel unwelcome, and are less likely to speak up.)
- Relevant Events Since 2014: Events on campus that indicate a commitment by faculty, administration, and/or students to protect or restrict free inquiry and viewpoint diversity. We ignore events that involve just a few students or professors and focus on those indicating broader sentiment, norms, or policy.
And here are the ten best schools for viewpoint diversity, in declining order. The reasons for the rankings can be see at the site. The
- University of Chicago
- Purdue University
- The College of William and Mary
- Carnegie Mellon University
- George Mason University
- Princeton University
- The University of Florida
- The University of Maryland at College Park
- The University of Mississsipi at Oxford
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Three of the schools I was affiliated with are on this list: the University of Chicago, where I am now, William and Mary, where I went to college, and the University of Maryland, where I had my first academic job as an assistant professor.
Here are the bottom ten, with the worst one at the bottom:
- The University of Tulsa
- Yale University
- Brown University
- Georgetown University
- Harvard University
- New York University
- Northwestern University
- Rutgers University
- University of Missouri at Columbia
- The University of Oregon at Eugene
I went to Harvard for my Ph.D, and have been distressed at its authoritarian and Regressive Leftist tactics, such as handing out “social justice” placemats telling students how to address political and social issues, and President Drew Faust’s punishments levied on students who join single-sex “finals clubs” that have nothing to do with Harvard. It’s sad that so many of the bottom-ranked universities have high academic reputations, but those also tend to be those with the more Left-wing faculty and students who promote victim culture and the demonization of viewpoints different from one’s own.
And speaking of Yale, famous for its Halloween fracas a year ago, which shook up the University, remember Erika Christakis, once a teacher and head of a Yale Residential College, hounded out of office last year by Snowflake Students after she wrote an email urging students to think for themselves about Halloween costumes? On October 28, Christakis wrote a retrospective for the Washington Post called “My Halloween email led to a campus firestorm—and a troubling lesson about self-censorship.” It’s worth reading, especially if you followed the earlier controversy. Here are two excerpts:
The community’s response [to Christakis’s email] seemed, to many outside the Yale bubble, a baffling overreaction. Nearly a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband’s immediate removal from our jobs and campus home. Some demanded not only apologies for any unintended racial insensitivity (which we gladly offered) but also a complete disavowal of my ideas (which we did not) — as well as advance warning of my appearances in the dining hall so that students accusing me of fostering violence wouldn’t be disturbed by the sight of me.
Not everyone bought this narrative, but few spoke up. And who can blame them? Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters. Many students met with us confidentially to describe intimidation and accusations of being a “race traitor” when they deviated from the ascendant campus account that I had grievously injured the community. The Yale Daily News evidently felt obliged to play down key facts in its reporting, including about the two-hour-plus confrontation with a crowd of more than 100 students in which several made verbal and physical threats to my husband while four Yale deans and administrators looked on.
One professor I admire claimed my lone email was so threatening that it unraveled decades of her work supporting students of color. One email. In this unhealthy climate, of which I’ve detailed only a fraction of the episodes, it’s unsurprising that our own attempts at emotional repair fell flat.
. . . I didn’t leave a rewarding job and campus home on a whim. But I lost confidence that I could continue to teach about vulnerable children in an environment where full discussion of certain topics — such as absent fathers — has become almost taboo. It’s never easy to foster dialogue about race, class, gender and culture, but it will only become more difficult for faculty in disciplines concerned with the human condition if universities won’t declare that ideas and feelings aren’t interchangeable. Without more explicit commitment to this principle, students are denied an essential condition for intellectual and moral growth: the ability to practice, and sometimes fail at, the art of thinking out loud.
I don’t know how Trump’s election will affect the anti-free-speech trends on American campuses, but I can’t imagine it getting better, especially because Trump stands for much that these students (and me) are against. But if his victory has enabled or emboldened conservatives to speak out, we are only the better for it if we allow them to do so on campus.
h/t: William L.