Former Senator Bob Kerrey has spent his time since retiring from politics as president of the New School University, formerly known as The New School for Social Research (which is the name of one of its subsidiary colleges now). The progressive institution has benefited from Kerrey’s political connections, and when he arranged to have one of his former colleagues, now running for President, as a graduation keynote speaker, it seemed an impressive achievement. However, the progressive students and faculty at this progressive college have made it clear that they cannot abide a conservative appearing on their campus for a speech — because John McCain isn’t open-minded enough:
Hundreds of New School students, staffers, and faculty members want the university to rescind its invitation to Senator McCain, who is set to receive an honorary degree and give the keynote speech at the graduation ceremony in two weeks.
The campaign against the Republican of Arizona began three weeks ago, after the New School’s president, Bob Kerrey – a former Democratic senator of Nebraska – announced that Mr. McCain would give the speech. Since then, about 1,000 signatures have been collected on paper petitions and at an Internet site, an organizer of the opposition, Harper Keenan, said.
“This ceremony is supposed to represent the culmination of these students’ experience at a school that is known for being progressive, liberal, and open-minded,” she said. “For the speaker not to represent these values at all is appalling.”
Ms. Keenan is the president of Out Proud Environment at New School, a gay and lesbian group on campus. She said many of the group’s members take issue with Mr. McCain’s votes against gay marriage. They are also upset that he is speaking at the Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University – a fundamentalist, Baptist institution in Virginia – just six days before he comes to the New School.
The irony here is far too attractive to ignore. A group of students and faculty want Kerrey to disinvite McCain because (a) he isn’t open-minded like they are, and (b) he’s going to associate with Christians in the same week as these progressives. Not only do they want to pass on hearing one of the presumed front-runners for the presidency speak as individuals, they don’t believe that anyone on their campus should hear him speak — lest he corrupt their open-mindedness.
Do I have that about right?
People wonder why speech codes exist on college campuses; this provides a perfect example. Private universities tend to produce people who, rather than broaden their horizons, become narrow-minded and arrogant. They believe that their professors contain the sum of all human wisdom and reject anything that conflicts with their orthodoxy. Therefore, any position that opposes their own not only is wrong, but probably evil and should be silenced. The faculty and administration usually agree, since the students by and large parrot their own positions. Instead of teaching intellectual rigor through research and self-discovery, too many of these professors teach intellectual rigor mortis. The New School students and faculty appear to have succumbed to this affliction.
Bob Kerrey has not. He refused to back down, telling the school in a letter that McCain represents the core values of the school regardless of some political differences they may have. He praised McCain’s moral and political leadership and that the school has judged him unfairly. In fact, as Kerrey probably should have pointed out, they have judged him without hearing what he has to say to them — and if they indeed valued open-mindedness, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all.