Hayley Waring, a student at Southern Methodist University, has an opinion piece in The College Conservative about former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address last month at Harvard. Mayor Bloomberg criticized left-wing censorship of conservative ideas on campus. Waring said Bloomberg is correct and discussed her own experience at SMU:
“Last semester, I took a public policy class with a professor who often let her left-leaning views leak into her lectures while assuring us she would keep her personal bias a secret. A large portion of my final grade relied on a term paper due at the end of the semester; I received a 67 on that paper. Upset and confused, I sought my professor, asking for an explanation. She brushed me off explaining that I’d gone a bit off topic. A bit off topic? Sure, a paper that strays from the topic assigned should be docked a few points. But being given a nearly failing grade didn’t seem fair to me, especially considering the fact I didn’t actually venture off topic. I continued to email her and visit her office, asking her to reconsider the grade. Ultimately, she did, and she raised the grade to an 87. Essentially, she raised my grade by 20 points, and I never changed a single word in the paper. I’ve always had a feeling that the original grade might have been directly related to the fact that the majority of my research came from the Heritage Foundation.” [emphasis added]
Colleges are supposed to be places of free inquiry and debate. In public schools, particularly public colleges, students are protected by the First Amendment. But even at private colleges such as Harvard and SMU, students expect and deserve to be allowed to think for themselves.
Yet, too often, the free speech student radicals of the 1960s—today’s graying college professors—seek to suppress conservative speech rather than engage with it intellectually. Bloomberg likened this situation to “McCarthyism.” Yet shutting down the free speech of today’s students is worse than McCarthyism. Sen. Joseph McCarthy was fighting against those who sought to violently overthrow the American government, and declassified intelligence reports now show that many of his accusations in the 1950s were not unfounded. By contrast, today’s students are not trying to violently overthrow anything—they are seeking to learn and express themselves peacefully. Using Heritage research, passing out Heritage pocket Constitutions, even being a part of the Heritage Young Leaders Program—these are not the sort of thing that should draw reduced grades from professors.
Cases like these make it all the more important that students educate themselves about the Constitution and about the First Principles that make America great. Take a few minutes to do so. The next time you find yourself staring down a college professor, you’ll be glad you did.