The National Association of Scholars (NAS) congratulates the thirteen faculty at Lewis & Clark College who have signed a free speech resolution. Their willingness to speak up for free speech and intellectual freedom is a hopeful sign in a time when these ideals have been under unprecedented assault on campus by the authoritarian left. We hope the rest of their colleagues will join them in signing the Resolution.
At the same time, we encourage the signatories to issue a new and stronger statement. As it now stands, the Resolution contains several loopholes which campus authoritarians can use to nullify its effect. For example, the phrase "Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the institution" could be construed to allow protests aimed at silencing "hate speech," on the grounds that Lewis & Clark cannot function if such speech is allowed. We recommend that the Resolution be revised to eliminate the possibility of such word-chopping by the enemies of intellectual freedom.
We also suggest that the first paragraph should explicitly support the intellectual freedom of all invited speakers, as well as the freedom of members of Lewis & Clark. After all, this Resolution was prompted by the violent disruption of a speech by Christina Hoff Sommers. The freedom of invitees like Sommers ought to be championed front and center.
We also note that it really is necessary nowadays to explicitly affirm that a liberal education seeks to educate students to seek out truth, not to forward social justice, and that all policy goals are secondary to that search for truth. The campus authoritarians who disrupt free speech do so because they believe that education is meant to forward political action, not truth. College faculty and administrators need to affirm that the search for truth is fundamental to education, and social justice is not.
Finally, we hope that the Resolution will be amended to explicitly call on the Lewis & Clark administration to enforce protecting intellectual freedom by the swift expulsion of all students who disrupt free speech. There must be swift, certain consequences for abrogating free speech, or the best intentions in the world will have no effect.
We offer these suggestions to improve the Resolution in a spirit of good will. The faculty at Lewis & Clark College who have signed their commitment for free speech have showed themselves to have the best interests of the academy at heart. Our suggestions are meant to improve the effectiveness of their resolution.
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