Restoring Liberalism, Tolerance And Diversity At Colleges And Universities

Samuel Abrams has written recently in the New York Times about liberalism and conservatism amongst faculty on American college campuses.

Liberalism is born of the commitment to tolerance of diversity, respect for value pluralism, and dedication to open democratic deliberation that defends and celebrates freedom of expression and assembly. It is also deeply concerned with social and economic justice and equality but recognizes that these cannot be ethically, sustainably, and democratically pursued absent fundamental freedoms and toleration. They require active respect for human difference in its myriad forms, including its conservative, centrist, and other political and moral expressions and identities.

Increasingly, college faculty and campuses (whether in New England or elsewhere in the United States) that the author identifies as being 'liberal' do not deserve that characterization. They may be on the left of the political spectrum but their prevailing political convictions often merge illiberalism and intolerance for dissent with a particular narrow and dogmatic discourse and ideology of social and economic justice that is exclusionary of those who do not uncritically share all its perspectives and convictions. This creates an intellectual and social atmosphere on many college campuses that can increasingly demand conformity and undermine independent, critical, and dynamic thought that is characterized by energized discussion and debate which enables new knowledge and understanding that is enriched by nuanced and multiple perspectives.

The marginalization and stigmatization of liberal democratic values on many college campuses today stems in part from an increasingly illiberal left that has rejected liberalism and the centrality of diversity, dissent, and pluralism to its character and values.