Campus Reform | 5 Big Questions for Veronique de Rugy, Mercatus Center senior research fellow

5 Big Questions for Veronique de Rugy, Mercatus Center senior research fellow

de Rugy is the George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

She says that illiberalism on college campuses is a threat to the future of higher education.


Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, says illiberalism at college and universities could destroy the power of higher education to improve people’s lives. 

The George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy and nationally syndicated columnist spoke with Campus Reform about the threat of academic intolerance and ways to counter it.

de Rugy says that a cultural shift is needed on college campuses. 

“One of the places you want to start is by restoring as much as possible, the culture of free speech, because ultimately, culture is upstream of laws,” she says. "It is culture, not politics, that she believes will create lasting change. The political parties “think they have the answer, but they don’t,” in her view.

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Political polarization, de Rugy says, has made illiberalism a tempting option for many:

“Each group feels oppressed by the other, and let’s be honest, right, isn’t it easier, if someone bothers you to silence that person, rather than actually engage and expose the fallacies in what that person is saying?”

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In her view, illiberalism on college campuses has led to illiberalism in society and the workforce:

“What is interesting,” de Rugy says, “is that for the longest time, people thought, well, once this spreads…when these kids grow and go to the marketplace, they’ll be taught…employers are going to be, 'we’re not putting up with this,' and instead that’s not what happened, we’ve seen it actually spread, this intolerance for some ideas…and now, it is really pervasive, everywhere.”

Illiberalism on campus erodes the quality of education that students receive, she argues.

“One of the reasons we like free speech,” she notes, “it’s not just that it’s a liberal value…it’s also one that creates knowledge.” She sees free expression as a productive exercise that benefits all. “It is the production of knowledge that’s actually lost…in an illiberal world,” she says.

Follow the interviewer on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito