Alexander suggests extending affirmative action to cover political views on college campuses

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who once served as president of the University of Tennessee, is quoted briefly in a lengthy New York Times article on the movement to assure conservatives can voice their views on college and university campuses where some feel they are now intimidated. Excerpt:

The spate of new policies shows how conservatives are successfully advancing one of their longstanding goals: to turn the tables in the debate over the First Amendment by casting the left as an enemy of open and free political expression on campuses. It was at schools like Berkeley, after all, that the free speech movement blossomed in the 1960s.

The new efforts raise a question that has only grown more intractable since President Trump took office: When one person’s beliefs sound like hate speech to another, how do you ensure a more civil political debate?

What conservatives see as a necessary corrective to decades of political imbalance in higher education, liberals and some college administrators see as an overly paternalistic approach to a problem that is being used as ammunition in the culture wars.

…The Goldwater model makes several recommendations for colleges and universities: to create disciplinary sanctions, including expulsion, for students who have been found to have twice interfered with someone’s free expression; to prevent administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial; and to remain neutral on the controversies of the day.

The model is not without disagreement on the right, however. Its mandatory punishment provisions drew a rebuke from the Charles Koch Institute, one of whose directors said conservatives were “giving in to the same fragility of which they so freely accuse their liberal counterparts.’’ Mr. Koch’s foundation has been a contributor to the institute in the past.

More broadly, some powerful Republicans are questioning whether affirmative action should be extended beyond race to students with less commonly held political views.

“You did it for underrepresented students, do it for underrepresented points of view,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In his comments, which he made at a New York Times conference on higher education last month, Mr. Alexander said that if colleges did not prioritize political diversity, they risked graduating a generation of overly squeamish adults.

“We don’t want a whole generation of students who have to go to a safe room when they read an offensive tweet,” he said. “They need to learn how to deal with that in our society.”

Note: The Tennessee General Assembly approved a “Campus Free Speech Act” last year (SB723) that’s not mentioned in the Times article. See previous post HERE.

10 Responses to Alexander suggests extending affirmative action to cover political views on college campuses

  • James White says:

    Will the Reach, Cost, Power, and Size of the Federal government every end?

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I assume you asked would it ever end and the answer appears to be “no,” but at the end this will be a much less free and prosperous country. In 1791 we were given the blueprint for the most wonderful country the world had ever seen. During the 1930’s, in the face of severe economic hardship, the majority Americans were willing to throw it away. That’s a little over 150 years. Not bad, as these things go, I guess.

  • Eddie White says:

    I think Lamar is right on point on this issue.

  • Norma Shirk says:

    At what point do “underrepresented points of view”, whether of the left or the right politically slip over the edge of the 1st Amendment’s free speech clause and simply become hate-mongering? No liberal or conservative politician will answer this question. They simply contribute to the noise of the polarization. From an historical viewpoint, beginning in the 1920’s, the right wing viewpoint predominated with Jim Crow laws in the south and national red scares. In the 1960’s, beginning at UC-Berkeley, the left wing viewpoint became predominant as racial, ethnic and gender discrimination was lifted. Inevitably, the people (right wing & conservative) who must now share power with these differing viewpoints are complaining about “under representation”. Compromise and accommodation are dirty words to both camps, which is a pity.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I’ll answer your question Norma. The only place where one can “. . . politically slip over the edge of the 1st Amendment’s free speech clause and simply become hate-mongering” is in the fever swamps of the political left. There is no such “edge” in U.S. constitutional law that’s why “[n]o liberal or conservative politician will answer this question” because the question is based on constitutional illiteracy.

      Unlike other western countries free speech in the U.S.A. is protected isubject only to a small set of narrow exceptions e.g. incitements to unlawful conduct, libel, fraud, perjury, obscenity, child pornography, threats of violence, face-to-face insults to a person, speech owned by others, commercial advertising that is misleading, etc. Sorry Norma, only in the minds of authoritarians of the left is there anything resembling “hate-mongering” that doesn’t pass constitutional muster.

      • Bob Fischer says:

        “incitements to unlawful conduct, libel, fraud, perjury, obscenity, child pornography, threats of violence, face-to-face insults to a person, speech owned by others, commercial advertising that is misleading, etc.” is a pretty good description of the edge of one’s first amendment right.

        It also defines hate-mongering speech (as well as copywriter speech).

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    Bravo Norma Shirk. An accurate and well stated response. I was merely going to quip that conservatives have always felt shoved aside – some might say paranoid – but your last line brought me up short. Still, I think that generally speaking there’s a difference between the right and left as to the extent and the intent. One seems to be more oppressive while the other seems more progressive. Unfortunately, the latter seems less willing to accommodate or compromise than in days gone by. I wonder if this gradual shift isn’t more of a reaction, or a cause and effect, kind of thing rather than an attempt to be deliberately obstructive.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Apparently Leslie, you took the same Constitutional Law class that Norma sat through. Perhaps the both of you can ask Saul Alinsky to refund your tuition because he filled your heads with a lot of extra-constitutional nonsense.

  • James White says:

    “[T]he two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy…. But either party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will have none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.” – Carroll Quigley in his 1966 book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time.

  • William Upton says:

    If you feel under represented….Talk more! We have free speech, so use it. Just don’t whine. If we continue to turn into a sad and pathetic nation we did it to ourselves and higher education is leading the way.

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