Students pressure Brown to invite more conservative speakers

Students at Brown University recently launched a new coalition dedicated to increasing the spectrum of viewpoints expressed by speakers invited to campus. 

SPEAK: Brown’s Coalition for Ideologically Diverse Students was quietly founded in Fall 2017 by sophomore Greer Brigham, a registered Democrat who cites the 2016 election as the trigger moment for his interest in promoting ideological diversity. 

“The results of the 2016 election took me entirely by surprise,” Brigham told Campus Reform, adding that the “conversation we were having on campus [after the election] felt very separate from the one that was going on nationally.”

[RELATED: 1,500+ profs vow to resist intellectual ‘intolerance’]

Unlike some other efforts to promote viewpoint diversity, SPEAK does not plan to directly invite conservatives or libertarians to lecture on campus. Instead, the coalition—which now includes roughly 20 students—aims to pressure the administration into doing the heavy lifting for them. 

“Early on we decided that rather than try to invite a couple speakers ourselves, we would press the University to change the ideological makeup of the couple hundred speakers that they invite every semester,” Brigham told Campus Reform (emphasis his). 

To do this, SPEAK researched the political affiliations of all 237 speakers the Brown University administration brought to campus in 2017, of which 95.4 percent were identified as having a “left-lean,” according to SPEAK’s inaugural March 21 report.

More specifically, of the 198 speakers who came to speak on American political topics in particular—times during which a speakers’ political affiliation might be more salient to students—93.4 percent leaned to the left. 

[RELATED: Elite universities get low rankings for viewpoint diversity]

The students who drafted that report also outlined a number of recommendations to administrators, urging them to “initiate a shift in the ideological diversity of the usually invited speakers” and “earmark funding for ideologically diverse speakers.”

Though the administration has yet to respond, Brigham and his team remain optimistic, saying they will “continue to pressure the administration for change.” 

Going forward, Brigham said that SPEAK members will be meeting with the administration and other student groups to devise strategies for increasing the political diversity of speakers on campus. 

While the group hopes that more conservative speakers will be invited, Brigham explained that the goal “stems from what we see as one of the main voices missing on campus right now,” noting that “our push includes other backgrounds as well, like Libertarians and Democratic Socialists.”

Campus Reform reached out to Brown University for comment on the political skew of its speakers, but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen