Beloit College in Wisconsin is at a tipping point, and its leaders have a consequential choice to make: whether to enforce its policies regarding speech on campus and make a bold stand for the free and open exchange of ideas, or to kowtow to an intolerant mob and deprive conservative students of enjoying the same privileges as their leftist counterparts.
In a widely-reported incident in March, the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Beloit College invited Erik Prince to deliver a lecture. Leftist agitators stacked chairs on the stage where Prince was set to speak, shouted and banged on drums and cymbals, and ultimately forced the cancellation of Beloit YAF’s event. Administrators did nothing to remove protestors or ensure Prince would be able to speak on campus as planned, a clear failure to enforce school rules by Beloit College’s leadership.
The Beloit College student handbook (page 87) states that “Free inquiry and free expression are essential attributes of the community of scholars. Therefore, recognized student groups are allowed to invite and present any speaker, performer, or dramatic or musical group of their own choosing, provided they follow regular procedures for scheduling facilities and placing the event on the calendar.”
Beloit YAF is a recognized student group and followed all policies and procedures, yet Beloit Administrators failed to allow the YAF chapter to present the speaker of their choosing.
Following their cowardly lack of leadership that allowed protestors to prevent Prince from speaking, Beloit explained that “it had been agreed upon in advance that neither representatives from the college nor the police would physically restrain or physically remove any protestors at the event, except under extreme circumstances.” That is, even before the event was slated to begin or a protestor had set foot inside the lecture venue, Beloit administrators had decided to do nothing to protect the free expression their handbook claims is essential.
What’s more, this decision also violated Beloit College’s demonstrations policy which states that “The college will make every attempt to deal with disruptive demonstrations first with reason and persuasion. Civil authorities will be called only after reason and persuasion fail, and the appropriate college officials deem such action is necessary to protect the safety of individuals, campus property, and the legitimate operations of the college. Members of the college community must take responsibility for their expressions, both public and private. No person(s) has the right to disrupt another’s speech or presentation.”
Beloit College unequivocally failed to stand by its own stated values and policies, and let down its own students who were working to bring a conservative voice to campus.
A CHOICE TO MAKE
On April 30, the Beloit College Young Americans for Freedom chapter is hosting bestselling author Heather Mac Donald, whose critically acclaimed writing includes The War On Cops (2016) and The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (2018).
If Beloit administrators enforce their policies on demonstration and student-organized speaking events to ensure Mac Donald is allowed to speak, they can show they take seriously the free inquiry and free expression they claim to value. But if they again cave to the will of the intolerant mob on campus and allow the event to be canceled by leftist agitators, more than just temporary negative media attention is at stake.
Just a year ago, it was reported that Beloit College faced a $7 million deficit for its 2018-2019 budget, up from the $3.3 million deficit reported for 2017-2018. For that same two year period, Beloit’s enrollment numbers and retention rates are notably low.
Really, the choice for Beloit College administrators is an easy one: Do they want to enforce their existing policies and send a message that the free and open exchange of ideas is valued and protected, or do they want to continue as they did with Beloit YAF’s Prince event.
SCHOOLS WITHOUT FREE EXPRESSION ARE SOON SCHOOLS WITHOUT STUDENTS
The consequence of the latter option is clear, as evidenced by the schools who’ve caved to leftist mobs before Beloit College. Most notably at Mizzou, enrollment has plummeted more than 35%, with the New York Times reporting that “Long after protests, students shun the University of Missouri.”
Beloit College needs to take seriously its commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas that ought to flourish in higher education. No longer can they stand by and allow intolerant students to silence students or shut down their events. Administrators have the opportunity to—and need to do—the right thing and allow Heather Mac Donald to speak unimpeded.
Young America’s Foundation, potential students’ families, and the nation are watching.