Here’s a bit of news worth celebrating: The Wall Street Journal editorial page notes that Yale’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program is establishing an annual dinner to honor people who were disinvited from speaking engagements at American colleges and universities because their views ran afoul of self-appointed speech commissars. The keynote speaker at this year’s inaugural dinner will be columnist George Will, who became the object of a Two Minutes Hate after he wrote skeptically about the alleged “campus rape epidemic,” and who subsequently received a disinvitation from Scripps College.
The dinner will shine a much-needed spotlight on one of the most baleful trends in higher education: the growing intolerance of unfashionable opinions. No less than former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg — nobody’s idea of a fire-breathing right-winger — has described the intellectual suppression of conservatives on campus as “a modern-day form of McCarthyism.”
It often takes very little to get blacklisted. For example: Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali is among the most courageous and awe-inspiring female human-rights activists in the entire world, which is why Brandeis University initially planned to award her an honorary degree last year. Yet because Hirsi Ali, an avowed atheist, has been critical of Islam, the school’s decision caused an uproar among certain members of the Brandeis community, along with the usual outside grievance-mongers. In the end, Brandeis rescinded its offer of an honorary degree, while assuring Hirsi Ali that she was “welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue.” (Happily, the Buckley Program recently hosted a talk by Hirsi Ali at Yale.)
Similar incidents in 2014 led former UC-Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau to withdraw as commencement speaker at Haverford, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to withdraw as commencement speaker at Rutgers, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde to withdraw as commencement speaker at Smith.
As the Journal observes: “The Disinvitation Dinner fills a need given an academic culture that is increasing hostile to free inquiry. . . . [It] is in keeping with Buckley’s mischievous sense of humor along with his determination to challenge conventional liberal thinking.” Cheers to that.