Controversial Stanford "Academic Freedom" Panel Proceeds

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tags: academic freedom, Alt Right, Peter Theil

A conference on academic freedom proceeded Friday and Saturday under the auspices of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, despite faculty and student calls for Stanford to distance itself from the event platforming such divisive figures as Amy Wax and Jordan Peterson (and which was otherwise a who’s who of self-proclaimed canceled academics: asked at one point to raise their hands if they'd been canceled, a majority of participants did so). 

Co-organizer John Cochrane, economist and Rose-Marie and Jack Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, in his opening remarks said that the event’s critics had failed and that “Stanford’s leaders have supported us, for which we are grateful, so we are still here.” At the same time, he said, “untenured faculty figured out they should not be seen here. Several more deregistered from the conference after we decided to stream the proceedings, citing fear of repercussions.”

“One prominent Stanford professor, active in university academic freedom issues, spoke for many, telling us, ‘I can’t be seen on the program with right-wing nutjobs like …’ and named a few of our speakers,” Cochrane added. “At an academic freedom conference. There’s half the problem in a nutshell.”

The event was invitation-only.

Referencing Cochrane’s additional complaint that liberals had been invited to speak but refused, speaker Jonathan Haidt, Heterodox Academy co-founder and Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, said that there was nevertheless “more diversity, more ideological and political diversity, in the room today than in probably any other room anywhere in any of America’s top 100 universities this year.” (Demographically, the room skewed older, white and male.)

Haidt further said that colleges and universities have abandoned the “telos” or “North Star” of truth in favor of social justice, and that this promotes “structural stupidity” within an institution (“it’s primarily the far left shooting and intimidating everybody else”). This is “suicidal” in terms of retaining public support for higher education, he also said. As for what’s ailing universities, Haidt traced it back to students, who increasingly are arriving on campuses with mental health problems, and to the rise of social media. He said that 2015 was a pivotal year for changing student attitudes, but that “I don’t think you’re going to find the answer in anything about the objective world.” He didn’t mention the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, which many student groups at the time said influenced their increased activism.

Read entire article at Inside Higher Ed