Beckmann: Modern college campuses no place for debate
We’re told that our major college campuses are interested in diversity and the expansion of young minds to explore a wide variety of thought and opinion.
But when push comes to shove, those schools become centers of political correctness, seemingly content to promote far-left agendas at the expense of all competing ideas.
This week’s dustup over the proposed showing of the Hollywood mega-hit “American Sniper” on the University of Michigan campus is but the latest example of the shallow mindset being fostered time and again at major schools.
In recent times, we’ve witnessed the reversal of invitations or forced withdrawal of planned campus speeches by the likes Condoleezza Rice and Dr. Ben Carson, simply because of protests by students who chose to take offense at their appearance.
Similarly, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was deemed “too controversial” to speak at Butler University.
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter’s invitation to speak at Fordham University was withdrawn after protests from liberal students.
But it’s the local story in Ann Arbor that has grabbed our most recent attention.
The controversy started after an Arab student led a write-in effort which convinced the University of Michigan to ban the showing of “American Sniper” on campus, a decision which was later reversed.
Kudos to U-M’s Vice President for Student Life, E. Royster Harper, for overseeing rectification of this mistake, which resulted when a Muslim student complained that the subject of the movie, Navy Seal Chris Kyle, was a racist mass murderer and that she felt uncomfortable when she saw the film.
Presumably, the scheduling of a replacement film, “Paddington” (about a stuffed toy bear), made that student feel more warm and cuddly and offered greater expansion of critical thought than a movie which examines the crippling effects of war, even on American heroes.
Considered in a vacuum, the movie controversy would amount to a minor event.
But given the wider view of efforts to advocate liberal thought, no matter how radical, and silence conservative views, our colleges have a clear hypocrisy problem which leads to the censorship we’re witnessing at schools across the country.
U-M is our state’s most visible school, so it gives us the most notable local examples.
The school recently allowed the firing of a Michigan Daily columnist, Omar Mahmood, whose home was egged and obscene notes were taped to his front door, all because he wrote a satirical column mocking the left-wing views of his own paper.
No word on whether any disciplinary action was sought or taken against those who did actual damage in that case.
The school was also the site of another recent “Hash Bash,” where marijuana (still illegal in Michigan) was openly smoked on a campus which has a policy that bans the smoking of cigarettes.
And the movie imbroglio came just a week after a U-M grad, Tom Hayden, with ties to violent radicals, was welcomed back on campus for several days to pedal his latest book and instruct students on the far-left views he’s espoused for decades.
Hayden has been an anti-capitalist crusader.
He traveled to Vietnam to join communists in opposing his own country.
He was an organizer of violent protests at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
It’s Hayden who has advocated for a violent armed struggle against the United States, who suggested that our country could be damaged “by setting ablaze New York and Washington.”
At his son’s wedding to a black actress, Hayden proudly stated that this was another step in his long-term goal, the “disappearance of the white race.”
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not advocating for the suppression of Hayden’s thoughts, no matter how hostile and loony.
But just as Hayden has the right to speak, no matter how uncomfortable he might make some feel, so do Condoleeza Rice, John Roberts and Ann Coulter.
Our country truly makes colleges institutions of higher learning by welcoming the discussion of all these people’s stories, including those of Chris Kyle.
Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760).