Princeton Professor Discusses Free Speech

The dangers modern universities face from intellectual homogeneity.

George gave multiple examples of the negative effects of intellectual homogeneity in his own experience as an academic at Princeton. George cited a story a liberal colleague of his shared with him, in which a faculty selection committee sought to disqualify a candidate based on his views on abortion, as a particularly flagrant violation of the “academic virtues” that institutions of higher education should hold and foster. According to George, this kind of homogeneity hurts not only conservative college students in the minority, but everybody in the university.

 

Robert P. George — noted legal philosopher, conservative thinker and Princeton professor of jurisprudence — came to campus Wednesday to speak to Yale students on the topics of academic freedom and liberal arts ideals. During his two-hour talk, George described the dangers modern universities face from intellectual homogeneity, and he called on students to rigorously assess their own positions.

The talk, which was hosted by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale and attracted roughly 60 attendees, focused especially on recent debates surrounding the state of free speech on college campuses — a debate in which Yale took center stage after students protested a controversial email from a University administrator. George, who has worked as an informal advisor to several Republican presidential candidates and who taught Sen. Ted Cruz during his time at Princeton, particularly denounced “group think,” his term for following an established orthodoxy and avoiding true debate. He argued that liberal arts institutions are founded for the express purpose of seeking and loving truth.

“There is a truth, or at least we have to suppose there is a truth — that’s the goal of our pursuit, and so we want to get it, or as near to it as we can possibly get,” he said.

The danger of “group think,” George said, is not that it is unfair, but rather that it is destructive to the very purpose and mission of a liberal arts university. Without an informed discourse, an understanding of one’s own position cannot be achieved, he added.

“Even if the opinions students happened to have acquired in an environment of political correctness happen to be true, students’ ignorance of the arguments advanced by serious dissenters will prevent them from understanding the truth as deeply as they should,” he said.

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