A new “Task Force on Free Expression and Civil Discourse” is being created at Whitworth University, per an email from Whitworth President Beck Taylor.
Notably, President Taylor credits “last year’s controversial ASWU [Associated Students of Whitworth University] decision to disallow an invitation to Ben Shapiro” as the impetus to “chase this issue some more.”
The task force comprised of students, trustees, and faculty—including a member appointed by the very body that banned Ben Shapiro last year and other students who have been found to frequently support leftist organizations online—will “develop a written statement of values and priorities” on free speech, according to Taylor.
This subjective and likely-to-be garbage statement will allegedly draw on “conversations among Whitworth’s diverse constituencies,” and “theological and biblical frameworks,” among other sources. Taylor hopes the final product will be “similar to the university’s Christ-Centered Rationale for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
With this decision, Taylor has again abdicated responsibility for creating an environment in which intellectual diversity and free expression can exist. There was no reason why Ben Shapiro couldn’t speak at Whitworth, apart from the tyrants in training who decided he wasn’t welcome because of his conservative ideas. President Taylor could have intervened and personally invited Shapiro, or been the adult in the room and told his fragile constituency to suck it up, buttercup.
His embarrassing deficit of leadership aside, Taylor’s decision to create a task force in order to develop a system for handling free expression is entirely unnecessary.
The U.S. Constitution remains the greatest document conceived for governing a people and their society. If President Taylor is looking for values, look to the First and Fourteenth Amendments that are all-too-often violated by universities—whether subject to its protections as public schools or not.
The recognition and protection of God-given rights found in the Constitution is all Whitworth needs for inspiration. Rather than seeking to appease fragile students or nervous trustees, Whitworth can adopt the principles of the Constitution to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion for all its students.