Yesterday, the Rose Institute of State and Local Government and the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World jointly sponsored a talk by journalist Heather Mac Donald that drew protests. It was the aim of the protesters, most of whom likely were not CMC students, to “shut down” the Mac Donald event because she disputes varying portions of current political orthodoxy. In one respect, they succeeded, as students and faculty who had signed up for the event were not able to gain entrance into the Athenaeum. Protesters also blockaded the Kravis Center, disrupting class events and reportedly assaulting a faculty member and his wife. These actions aimed to violate the core mission of our college, which includes reasoned debate, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.
In the end, however, the protesters failed. Because the audience was forcibly blocked from entering, instead of the 120 who were signed up originally, about 250 watched the talk online. Given the notoriety now surrounding the event, many more will surely watch it online for weeks to come. Moreover, the protesters exposed to the world their utter lack of respect for basic values of intellectual discourse, their lack of humility in arrogating to themselves the right to “shut down” anyone who collides with their personal point of view, and their lack of historical knowledge, introspection, or actual understanding of the argument of the speaker. After all, it is more than a bit ironic to call someone a fascist when you are yourself using physical force and threat of mob violence to deprive others of their freedom. It is also ironic to try to drown out with chants of “black lives matter” a speaker who sought to be a voice for the 7,000 black victims of homicide last year. Of course, one would have had to actually read her book or articles, or be willing to listen to her talk, to have known that. After having spent three hours in the Athenaeum on Thursday evening, I can attest to the fact that the protesters like hearing their own voices too much to be able to hear anyone else.
As I have said before, the Rose Institute does not endorse the views of any of its speakers, only their qualifications to comment on important issues and their right to speak. We will continue bringing to campus speakers from a variety of viewpoints. Reasoned debate, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought cannot and must not be surrendered. Perhaps someday those things will be respected by all the members of our Claremont academic community. In the meantime, those who do believe in those principles across the 5Cs had better rally around them, or they will be lost.
Andrew E. Busch
Director, Rose Institute of State and Local Government