New campaign helps students demand free speech, intellectual diversity on campus

A non-partisan interest group is spearheading a campaign against the intellectual homogeneity on America’s college campuses with a new program that helps students “reduce political orthodoxy” at their schools.

“Professors and visiting speakers who are not on the left, politically, are becoming increasingly rare. This should concern you—especially if you are on the left,” writes Jonathan Haidt, an executive committee member of Heterodox Academy, in Tuesday’s announcement. “Exposure to a diversity of viewpoints (i.e., heterodoxy) is the best way to expand your mind and improve your ability to deal with the politically diverse world you’ll find after graduation.”

The new program, known as “Heterodox University,” provides students with resolutions they can submit to their respective student governments, demanding three concrete items: the adoption of the Chicago Principles on Freedom of expression, the implementation of a non-obstruction policy for protests, and a clear commitment to improving “viewpoint diversity.”

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The strategy, Haidt explained, affords interested students the luxury of anonymity while allowing otherwise silenced students a clear method to combat the political one-sidedness on their campuses.

“Any individual who speaks up for viewpoint diversity risks being attacked for being a conservative, which is often taken to be a form of racism. So even centrists and libertarians are often silenced, and political orthodoxy sets in,” Haidt told Campus Reform. “But if the students are given the chance to make their wishes known in a referendum where they can vote anonymously, we are likely to find at least a few schools where a majority reject political orthodoxy.”

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In his opinion, Haidt added, he thinks many professors and students on the left would actually find a more intellectually diverse campus attractive, but simply don’t have a clear outlet to voice their concerns.

“We think that there are many schools where a majority of students, including many or most on the left, would welcome a more vibrant intellectual climate, one that makes room for students, professors, and visiting speakers who are on the left,” he continued. “But at present, these students have few ways to make their wishes known.”

While Heterodox Academy focuses mostly on increasing political diversity among college faculty, it plans to roll out several new student resources over the course of the fall semester, including the “fearless speech index,” an online survey that will allow administrators to “measure the degree to which students feel free to speak up in class.”

Haidt also encouraged interested students to “read our blog post on the subject” and “find out what it takes at your school to introduce a campus-wide referendum.

“Even if an initiative fails,” he asserted, “we think that a campus-wide discussion of viewpoint diversity would be a good thing.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski