Letter to the Editor: Academic Freedom


If an organization claims to support the values of curiosity, academic freedom, and open debate, or is obliged to in spirit by the very nature of the institution, then it is essential to point out when this organization utterly fails to do so. This is particularly true when said organization audaciously congratulates itself on achieving something it has actually destroyed in the process of abandoning its first and foremost objectives and values of duty. I had no real intention of writing anything to Bellevue College again, but when I was informed by a family member currently in attendance that the campus website had plastered up a new banner that read, “Bellevue College is inclusive,” I couldn’t bring myself to let it go without a response.

Presumably, we come to institutes of higher “education” (a term I’ve come to dislike because of its authoritarian connotations that learning does better without) in order to acquire knowledge. Now, the most reliable path to knowledge, often defined as “justified, true, belief,” is what Jonathan Rauch calls “liberal science,” the method of pursuing truth that ruthlessly pits ideas against each other, and in which no one gets a final say or special privilege. This means that ideas and preconceptions will be challenged, and sometimes people’s feelings will be hurt, if anything worth paying for is happening.

Except BC isn’t ok with that, in flagrant violation of its lost pedagogical duties. It defines unacceptable, hateful behavior extraordinarily broadly, clarifying by its subjectivity that anything can be considered out-of-bounds if another person is sufficiently teary-eyed about it. One former student, Peter VanHoomissen, drew a conclusion from a Biology class about genetic variation in populations–a conclusion, as it happens, arrived at by the famed biologist E.O.Wilson–and was shut down by his professor as being racist. Another student, we’ll call him Eric, was permanently removed from his English class when, during a tangent discussion about different countries, he voiced his opinions about immigration and what constitutes being an American. Dustin Boehlke didn’t even reach an interesting conclusion to be accused of racism and forced to apologize; when he suggested that it might be better for a cultural club to go on an educational trip to Mexico rather than spend student money on a giant party, a member of the club claimed he had wanted to deport her. It doesn’t matter that these incidents aren’t excluding to anyone by any reasonable measure; it’s sufficient that someone “feels” uncomfortable. Nothing is safe, and so people keep their thoughts to themselves.

It would be bad enough if BC’s diversity-police merely destroyed the educational process, or at least the core foundational elements of the only reliable method of acquiring knowledge. But then they have the chutzpah to declare that they are inclusive, while alienating and silencing the only people who have ever made significant advances in human knowledge and achievement: people who think differently. It’s distasteful, it’s self-deluding, and it’s an unwitting threat to the most precious gifts of free society.