OP-ED: Common Sense Over Nonsense at Our Universities

Thoughts on free speech in light of northeastern universities making headlines for unchecked antisemitism


The one thing that both conservatives and liberals agree on is that the intelligence level of America’s leading universities – Harvard, University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – dropped off the charts following their testimony at a Capitol Hill hearing to answer for how these pristine institutions had devolved into hotbeds of antisemitism. 

It was a display of how their years-long abandonment of free speech has allowed radicalism and antisemitism to grow on college campuses. There is little debate on campus, allowing ignorance to flourish and creating an environment filled with echo chambers where activist students championing any progressive cause du jour go unchecked while professors and administrators root them on.

“Antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance, and the cure for ignorance is knowledge,” testified Harvard’s president Claudine Gay. “Harvard must model what it means to preserve free expression while combating prejudice.” Yet, she and her peers were called before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer for how their institutions had devolved into hotbeds of antisemitism and for initially failing to condemn Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel.

Penn ultimately only recognized the importance of free expression after it came to bite the institution in its bank account. A similar scenario has been playing out at Harvard as well.

Brown President Christina Paxson, along with the vast majority of her peers, were able to breathe a sigh of relief while the world came down on these three, forcing one resignation already, with Harvard president Gay still on thin ice.

Brown’s record on free speech is poor, highlighted by their nationally played demonstration on their intolerance of free speech when the New York Police Commissioner was allowed to be forced off the stage at an event at Brown’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy, which (according to their website) “brings together scholars, practitioners, and students from different perspectives to address important problems facing American politics and policy.” 

The classical liberal, bow tie-wearing professors of the past have been replaced by critical theorists who seem to be against Western values and are often unwilling to look at both sides of many issues. In a free society, the correct response to ideas we disagree with should be more speech, not censorship.

The reality is that our great universities cannot afford to fail. They must adjust and demand a level of leadership to address some of the most pressing problems facing our society. Freedom of speech is a legitimate issue. Penn wasn’t wrong to address improving better dialogue through a conference on Muslim culture, but ignoring the warnings of some of the school’s most knowledgeable alumni supporters and then having a mini-student revolt from its Jewish students concerned over their safety, ultimately cost President Liz Magill her job.

At Harvard, one of the cornerstones of its reputation is the sanctity of its research. And to find its president embroiled in a plagiarism event, that, to date, is unresolved, isn’t exactly sending the right message as big universities must protect against bad scholarship from the impact of AI and the like.

It’s long overdue that our great institutions need to put these perspectives back into some semblance of order and priority before things fall into the netherworld of fake or unreliable. It’s time for our elite institutions to contend with the radicalism they’ve fostered on their campuses.

Bigotry is unacceptable. Some lines in the sand can’t be crossed. But there are also times when our academic leaders must know when to ignore the spin doctors and listen to their heads and hearts. Common sense is more important than nonsense.



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