upenn free speech

Stefano: Why Penn’s sudden defense of free speech feels disingenuous

For years, conservatives have called on institutions of higher learning to recommit themselves to open inquiry and tolerance for politically unpopular speech. What’s changed?

University of Pennsylvania faculty are calling for a new school constitution that will foster intellectual diversity, openness of thought, civil discourse, and political neutrality “at the level of administration,” but Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and Commonwealth Foundation Executive Vice President Jennifer Stefanoasks in this week’s column, “what’s changed?”

Stefano writes:

This newfound zealotry for academic freedom and free speech by elite universities and their mainstream media apologists could be considered satire if it weren’t so disingenuous — and dangerous.

For sure, prior to Oct. 7, there were some at Penn and in the media who have been consistent in their calls for a diversity of viewpoints and the protection of those pushing unpopular ideas.

But would many of these same people now hand-wringing over free speech be just as committed if the exchange between U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik and Magill were about the LGBTQ community or students of color?

Would they write in defense of academic freedom if former President Donald Trump was invited to join the Penn faculty as a guest lecturer? Will they demand an apology for Wax and fund an open discourse chair in her name?

In this climate, it’s hard to believe there will be a newfound respect for the First Amendment. Not only are colleges not committed to these ideals, the students they admit often don’t hold dear the values of civil society. …

It took the largest slaughter of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust to expose the moral rot at our elite educational institutions. Magill’s resignation — after paying lip service to the ideals of free speech — is not going to bring about a renaissance for civil liberties on American campuses, especially if DEI is the predominant power structure in higher education.

Until DEI is dismantled and people with a demonstrated history of commitment to liberalism and open discourse are put in their place, the ugly intolerance we now see masquerading as inclusivity on our nation’s campuses will reign supreme.

You can read Stefano’s full column here.


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