Free market of ideas needed for critical thought

Faculty Columnist and Faculty Columnist

Last month, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was to give an address entitled “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City” at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

He was never able to speak. When introduced, he was promptly confronted with a continuous barrage of catcalls and booing that lasted 30 minutes.

The hyperreaction centered on the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” policy. This policy was struck down by a federal district judge whose actions were so biased that the Federal Appeals court not only blocked her order, but also took her off the case for judicial misconduct. The Brown demonstrators evidently didn’t get that memo.

Brown president, Christina H. Paxson, issued the following statement: “The actions that led to the closing of this afternoon’s lecture prevented any exchange of ideas and deprived the campus and the Providence community of an opportunity to hear and discuss important social issues. The conduct of disruptive members of the audience is indefensible and an affront both to civil democratic society and to the university’s core values of dialogue and the free exchange of views.”

No kidding.

It’s a wonder the campus police weren’t summoned to cite “the disruptive members of the audience” for disturbing the peace. Some of the miscreants should have been dismissed from Brown. Their “indefensible” actions have no place on a college campus.

“Diversity” is trumpeted by virtually every American university these days. And in order to instill “critical thinking”— another academic goal— students must be exposed to a diversity of ideas. Like it or not, this involves contemplating ideas not always popular.

Disagreement with ideas is expected, but must be thoughtful and respectful. Shouting down a speaker, especially a Vietnam-era combat Marine and police commissioner who has spent twice the years with the NYPD as his student-hecklers have spent breathing is not only bad form, but also betrays an astounding degree of hubris by his hecklers.

The tactics of the Brown students are reminiscent of similar idiocies back in the sixties and seventies.

The demonstrators maintained that they should have been consulted about the event. One of the students stated, “They [the University] decided not to cancel the lecture, so we decided to cancel it for them.” Their arrogance and ignorance is breathtaking and demonstrates not only a lack of maturity required to make these kinds of decisions, but also a lack of appreciation of the First Amendment and its implications.

These days “diversity” is a noble concept, evidently as long as it conforms to the current progressive cause de jour. But woe betide those offering a different view.

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