On May 7, ACTA ventured to Colorado Springs to discuss campus free speech and intellectual diversity with more than 100 friends, supporters, and donors. Hosted by Joseph Woodford and the Bastiat Society, the event featured special guest Hank Brown, former U.S. Senator and past president of the University of Northern Colorado as well as the University of Colorado System. Senator Brown reflected upon a variety of troubling aspects in higher education today, including the University of Northern Colorado’s “Bias Response Team,” the need to stop the “fascist practice” of bullying speakers, and the importance of teaching the humanities from all sides of the political spectrum.
ACTA’s president, Michael Poliakoff, followed Senator Brown’s remarks with a hard-hitting video illustrating the extent of the campus speech crisis, and outlined a plan to cure this malady. He emphasized that implementing the Chicago Principles or other guiding values that demonstrate a commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression will go a long way to ensure a campus climate of intellectual diversity. In addition, colleges and universities must make clear in their codes of conduct that students and faculty should expect to encounter challenging ideas and be willing to foster robust debates on campus.
In his presentation, Dr. Poliakoff highlighted a disturbing statistic: An October 2018 Gallup poll revealed that for the first time, less than 50% of Americans have confidence in higher education. “Colleges and universities are at an inflection point,” he said. “They must decide between continuing the status quo and failing their students, or initiating meaningful reform. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.’”
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