Restoring Mutual Respect and Pluralism at our Colleges and Universities

'The Big Uneasy,' a recent article in the New Yorker, illustrates the illiberal and anti-democratic turn in college life; away from pluralism and genuine respect for difference and exploration of it towards the desire to impose a uniform ideology which does not tolerate value pluralism and the political and intellectual diversity it enables and sustains. Those who do not submit to this increasingly hegemonic illiberal ideology often suffer from character assassination and ad hominem attack.

As a result of this growing intolerance, the willingness and capacity to appreciate complex individual life experiences is lost precisely because individual experiences with their nuances, complexities, and shades of gray undermine rigid ideologies and reductionist and essentializing narratives with their binaries, polarities, absolutism, abstractions, and unassailable certainty.

Consequently, many colleges today suffer from an atmosphere of increasing lack of empathy, self-righteous rage, and an unwillingness of students to engage one another empathetically and generously, with patience, kindness, and compassion. This damages students and faculty alike, as individuals and as a community.

We must challenge the dehumanization that results from dogmatic doctrines that reject dialogue. We need to rehumanize our colleges and universities to enable a genuinely diverse, open, respectful, learning and living environment as we engage one another across dynamic boundaries of differences of values, beliefs, identities, resources, experiences, and opportunities - both real and imagined.