Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity On Campus

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What is college for? For many, it’s a time for personal and intellectual growth, to meet new people, and to explore ideas and philosophies that challenge their beliefs. Or is it? Recent cancellations of conservative speakers, rescinded honorary degrees, and scrutiny of certain campus groups have heightened perceptions that there is pervasive liberal intolerance on campuses. Are liberals shutting down speech and debate on campus? Or is this theory a myth, based on the preponderance of liberals at universities rather than intentionally discriminatory actions?

  • GregLukianoff90px Official


    Greg Lukianoff

    President, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

  • KirstenPowers90px


    Kirsten Powers

    Columnist, USA Today & Contributor, FOX News

  • AngusJohnston90px


    Angus Johnston

    Historian of Student Activism

  • JeremyMayer90px


    Jeremy Mayer

    Assoc. Prof., George Mason & Co-Author, Closed Minds?

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

Greg Lukianoff

President, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is the author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (2012) and Freedom from Speech (2014). He has published articles in Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Stanford Technology Law Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, and numerous other publications. He is also a blogger for Huffington Post and authored a chapter in the anthology New Threats to Freedom (2010). Lukianoff is a frequent guest on local and national syndicated radio programs, has represented FIRE on national television, and has testified before the U.S. Senate about free speech issues on America’s campuses. After focusing on the First Amendment and constitutional law at Stanford Law School, Lukianoff practiced law and interned at the ACLU in Northern California. He is a co-author of FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus.

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For The Motion

Kirsten Powers

Columnist, USA Today & Contributor, FOX News

Kirsten Powers is a columnist for USA Today and Daily Beast, where she writes about politics, human rights, and faith, and the author of the forthcoming release, The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech. She joined FOX News Channel in 2004 and currently serves as a rotating panelist on Outnumbered and as a network contributor, providing political analysis and commentary across FOX News’s daytime and primetime programming, including Special Report with Bret Baier and FOX News Sunday. She previously served as a columnist for The New York Post, a communications consultant at Human Rights First and for the New York State Democratic Committee and vice president for international communications at America Online, Inc. From 1993 to 1998, Powers worked as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for public affairs in the Clinton administration. She began her career as a staff assistant at the Office of President Bill Clinton, on the Clinton/Gore Presidential Transition Team.

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Against The Motion

Angus Johnston

Historian of Student Activism

Angus Johnston is a historian of American student activism, and of student life and culture more broadly. An advocate of student organizing, he is the founder of the website He teaches history at the City University of New York, where he received his PhD in 2009 with the dissertation “The United States National Student Association: Democracy, Activism, and the Idea of the Student, 1947-1978.” Johnston is particularly interested in student activism beyond the 1960s, in the history of student government, and in the role of students in the university. He regularly participates in scholarly and popular discussions on these topics, and his writing has appeared in several journals and anthologies. He has delivered lectures and workshops on the history of American student activism to undergraduate audiences at colleges across the country. Johnston received his BA in history from Binghamton University.

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Against The Motion

Jeremy Mayer

Assoc. Prof., George Mason & Co-Author, Closed Minds?

Jeremy Mayer is an associate professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University. Most recently, he is the co-author of Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities (2008) and co-editor of Media Power, Media Politics, 2nd Ed. (2008). He has written articles on diverse topics such as presidential image management, Christian right politics, federalism and gay rights, and comparative political socialization in several journals, and has offered political commentary to major networks and national newspapers. Previously, Mayer taught at Georgetown University and Kalamazoo College, where he won a campus-wide teaching award. He is a recipient of the Rowman & Littlefield Award in Innovative Teaching for the American Political Science Association, the only national teaching award in political science. He also has studied politics at Oxford, Michigan, and Brown.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

46% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (29% voted FOR twice, 11% voted AGAINST twice, 6% voted UNDECIDED twice). 54% changed their minds (2% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 1% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 8% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 1% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 23% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 19% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link John Kenny Wednesday, 30 March 2016 08:12 posted by John Kenny

      I wonder how online universities fair in the debate on intellectual diversity. In an online setting the aspects of student and teacher culture and race are removed from the equation, as all interaction is done online. Does this lack of personal interaction change the dynamics of intellectual diversity?

    • Comment Link Frank Saturday, 12 December 2015 18:56 posted by Frank

      The title of the debate was dead on. It is interesting to see the liberals squirm when they are being called out specifically for their crimes. Even Democrats can see how damaging liberals have become.

    • Comment Link Jeffrey Damein Cappella Friday, 24 July 2015 12:09 posted by Jeffrey Damein Cappella

      I am a disabled veteran who was harassed and threatened by university officials while attending syracuse university.

    • Comment Link Rob Wednesday, 01 July 2015 06:35 posted by Rob

      Wow looking at all the liberal answers on this comment section shows why college campuses have become trash for real debates and prove everything the panel was trying to say.

      'religion is anti-intellectual.'

      'there is no argument against abortion.'

      yes there is, you just don't want to hear them.

    • Comment Link Nan Wednesday, 17 June 2015 01:27 posted by Nan

      It sounds like there there is some stifling of intellectual diversity on campuses. While these actions on campuses may be by liberals, they may also be mothers, fathers, singles, coffee drinkers, victims of abuse, people who like to control, people who like to avoid conflict, people with personality profiles ENTJ, INFP, random sequential dominant or any number of options. Is liberal really the most defining characteristic of the ones performing the most offensive examples of stifling, or is it some quality possessed by a much smaller group of people? These same sorts of people could also be present in conservative groups. It seems all to convenient to blame it on liberalism, when it might be something else entirely. On the other hand, the most extreme of these examples, if they are truthfully portrayed, are not to be ignored... whether the offense is coming from someone with liberal or conservative beliefs.

    • Comment Link Lauren Thursday, 04 June 2015 19:30 posted by Lauren

      I was disappointed that the debate didn't effectively put to use the statistics of the overwhelmingly liberal faculties on college campuses. It focused more on blatant censorship but didn't note the inherent issues that arise when professors openly advocate their political positions in classrooms.

      As a Political Science major in college, I was always "encouraged" to join classroom debates. However, as a conservative student, it only took me a single semester to realize that my GPA would suffer tremendously if I continued to speak my mind with honesty. I actually began writing my papers in ways that completely conflicted with my personal beliefs in order to receive an A in classes. In fact, the only F I have ever received in my entire life was on a paper advocating anti-union legislative reform.

      I would like to think that most liberal professors don't intentionally target conservative students. What can't be ignored, however, is the fact that grades will never be objective if there's an inherent bias against every comment a student makes or every paper they write. This is something I witnessed and felt first hand throughout my entire college career, and it really ruins your educational experience when you are constantly having to choose between standing up for your personal beliefs and your GPA.

    • Comment Link Kris Tuesday, 02 June 2015 22:38 posted by Kris

      i thought there was a huge oversight by both sides. First, the development of University speech codes were an outgrowth of the racism, sexism and heterosexism that was rampant on college campuses ( and still is). The were developed to attempt to create an atmosphere that was not hostile to students who were ethic minorities, women. The question of how speech can create a hostile learning environment is very real. Just as it is in workplace settings. Where such codes have gone off the mark is it he inability to address what is hostile speech or hate speech and what's merely offensive speech. calling a woman the C word may be hostile, or as some of my students sat, " just playing." What is key is context. Speech that is offensive could be talking about gay sex to someone who subscribes to religious dogma. The problem is that we are not able to make the distinction and therein lies the problem. Absolute bans on ideas, e.g. Abortion, gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti gay March is, I would argue anti intellectual. The debaters did not address this and quite frankly were really unsophisticated in their analysis and in their speech. This debate left much to be desired and was really not productive nor a debate that brought new information to the table. And the moderator needs to be quiet and let the debaters raise question as well as the audience.

    • Comment Link Sara Saturday, 30 May 2015 18:07 posted by Sara

      Conflating all opinion exploited by the right as conservative distorts this debate.
      Evangelical belief is not an intellectually enriching POV in a university community. It does not add diversity to any discussion or better understanding of evolution, social science or economic policy.
      The main cudgel of so-called 'liberals' is rationality, not belief or opinion. Aesthetic difference must be welcome- as in art & literature.
      Libertarian, communist, theocratic or anarchistic arguments must be analyzed in political science courses. But dogmatic fundamentalism is not an enriching diversity in higher education.

    • Comment Link Raider Monday, 04 May 2015 15:22 posted by Raider

      In the liberal arts college at Wright State University in Ohio, you can be bullied, graded on a different scale, and even be physically assaulted by employees of the university for identifying as a conservative.

      In autumn of 2005, a staff member named Mark Lyons once slammed a student into a wall for walking past his office with a Republican pin on his bag. Lyons apologized to the whole class the next day, then went on to say that the only good Republican is a dead Republican, and joked to an Israeli-born student that all Israelis were born with Uzis in their hands.

      Rather than be fired or even censured, the professors in the department (one who openly identifies as a Socialist, another who referred to Hugo Chavez as a "sweet man,") rallied to Lyons's support.

    • Comment Link Jose Chung Sunday, 03 May 2015 18:44 posted by Jose Chung

      Hallowed halls make excellent echo chambers.

    • Comment Link Dave McCombs Sunday, 29 March 2015 18:01 posted by Dave McCombs

      It's disappointing that no one even mentioned the fact that from the 1930s to the 1960s universities openly prohibited professors from advocating Marxism and in many cases, simply fired any professor deemed insufficiently loyal to the capitalist ideology.
      This is the real legacy of real censorship and control. While it's true that some university administrations have become preposterously petty in matters of campus political expression, it hardly reaches the level of concern about intellectual diversity.
      This debate is exactly like the conservative whine about the media. In their minds, they are entitled to somewhere between half and all of the ideologically space in the media and on the campus. But they'll never acknowledge that such space is earned, not given.

    • Comment Link gappy Wednesday, 25 March 2015 18:39 posted by gappy

      I thought it would be of interest to link to the letter written by Haverford students addressed to Chancellor Birgenau, and that was mentioned by Angus Johnston as an innocent episode followed by an intemperate reply by Birgenau:

    • Comment Link KadeKo Friday, 20 March 2015 11:19 posted by KadeKo

      Real one-sided of you, ISquared.

      Just as one example, conservative governors, legislatures, and funders are attaching strings all over the place in public higher education.

      Either give us a show about how conservatives are doing this, with non-Fox News guests, or go back in time and make your premise about "partisans" rather than "liberals.

    • Comment Link Jay Friday, 06 March 2015 10:39 posted by Jay

      This is example of a poorly considered motion. After listening to this debate both sides were struggling to define the motion. When this happens the debate becomes a debate of semantic gatchas. If the motion had been "University's stifle free and open thought in the interest of maintaining a favorable social image and financial solvency." It would have be more interesting.

    • Comment Link Richard Thursday, 05 March 2015 21:38 posted by Richard

      I was a disappointed with the lack of focus in this debate. The motion, as stated "LIBERALS ARE STIFLING INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY ON CAMPUS" is tautologically true: liberals, conservatives and centrists are both stifling and encouraging intellectual diversity on campuses across the country every day. Is the point that liberals do it more than conservatives? That they stifle more than they encourage? No wonder the debaters couldn't figure out whether they were arguing about censorship or a predominantly liberal professor base or administrative cowardice or whatever else they talked about.

    • Comment Link Eric Thursday, 05 March 2015 15:28 posted by Eric

      The two opposing the proposition demonstrated, by their very statements, just how willing they were to remove people's free speech. I thought that Greg Lukianoff was right on the money. I was surprised that no one brought up the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case, as an example of free speech being trampled.

    • Comment Link BG Thursday, 05 March 2015 12:38 posted by BG

      A much more constructive motion for this debate would have been "is ideology stifling reasonable and civil debate?"

    • Comment Link Chris Wednesday, 04 March 2015 13:50 posted by Chris

      I am disappointed by the uncorrected false statements about the Marquette University situation with John McAdams in this debate. A few short minutes of fact checking would show that the dismissal of this professor has nothing to do with free speech, and everything to do with his blog posts publishing the name of a student of the university and encouraging readers to harass her. This lead to threats of violence and insults causing the student to transfer out of Marquette. This move was about not allowing faculty to single out the students, a move to protect students themselves and I would argue in turn their academic freedom.

      Read the letter written to Prof McAdams, which clearly points out that the reason for his dismissal is not ideologically motivated. Look also at the explanations given by the graduate assistant in this case ( for why the entire situation was mischaracterized by Prof McAdams. Furthermore the student in the class who made the initial complaint had the whole situation resolved for him by the academic faculty in the department without the aid of McAdams.

      As a fairly conservative recent graduate of Marquette, I can assure you it is not an anti-conservative campus by any stretch. There were frequent protests on campus in favor of both liberal and conservative causes (probably more conservative), and I never felt the faculty or administration were in any way critical of either side apart from a few individuals who do not represent the whole university.

      I can only believe that the other anecdotes from both sides in this debate were equally misrepresented, and therefore am left to discount the whole thing. I know where I stand on this debate, partisanship in general is stifling creativity, free speech, and intellectual diversity. People are not willing to listen to opposing views regardless of where they stand on issues. Mostly, people pick a side and only care about that side winning every disagreement (or election as it were). We need more moderates.

    • Comment Link Andrew Caudell Sunday, 01 March 2015 13:35 posted by Andrew Caudell

      Religious bigotry is not intellectual in nature, therefore stifling religious bigotry on campus is NOT stifling intellectual diversity. Given that every argument against gay marriage is religious in nature, banning debate on the subject is NOT stifling INTELLECTUAL diversity. It may be stifling something, but that something is not intellectual diversity. I noticed in the first round, both conservatives on the panel mentioned gay marriage opponents being 'stifled'. Same goes for the pro-lifers. While there are SOME arguments against abortion which are not religious in nature, they are vanishingly rare, and again, religious bigotry does NOT constitute intellectual diversity.

    • Comment Link peggy conroy Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:24 posted by peggy conroy

      The whole purpose of the university is that "there is no certainty to knowledge' as my old econ prof stated in his first lecture. In my experience it's not diversity that's being limited just "stupid stuff" that's been proven useless and a waste of time. After all we have a congress for that.

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