Month: March 2017

Hitchen Saves the World at the NH Department of Environmental Services

This semester, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, a History major from Auburn, New Hampshire, is interning with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. One Thing after Another caught up with Hitchen and asked her about her experiences

Q: What made you decide to do an internship?

A: Ever since I was in grade school I’ve been interested in the courts, lawyers, and the law in general. When I first entered Saint Anselm College, I seriously considered the possibility of going to law school afterwards. Now being a junior, I decided to do an internship that would answer questions that have been brewing since I was a freshman. What do lawyers do? What type of work can a person do in the legal field? What is it like to work with the law? Would I like that type of work? This internship for me was all about discovery; I wanted my questions answered with experience.

Based on my time spent at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), I would recommend internships to my fellow history majors. I think they are very important in seeing firsthand how skills learned in history classes can be applied to the “real world.” If there is the time and opportunity, I highly recommend completing an internship that is of interest.

Q: What intrigued you about NH DES in particular?

A: The initial thought of working at the NH DES excited me. The main reason that I was intrigued is that I am a huge nature lover, and I care for New Hampshire’s environment in particular. I am from a small town, and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. My home state is very special to me, and I wanted to be able to protect its environment. DES was a great place to pursue my passions.

Q: Can you describe a typical day at the office?

A: I am responsible for a wide variety of tasks at the DES. During a typical day, most of my time is spent working independently on an assigned project. My assignments can range from proofreading legal documents for cross-referencing errors and creating tables expressing the changes in a set of laws to creating draft decisions on environmental fine cases. Drafting fine case decisions are my favorite projects to work on because there are so many facets in making a decision. I read through the file while analyzing the case’s chronology of events, I listen to the fine hearing, and then I draft a document explaining if I think the respondents committed a violation. After I complete the draft, I pass it on for review. When I am not working independently, I am sitting in on meetings or fine hearings.

Q: Are you finding your history skills useful in your legal work?

A: My history skills have helped me in ways that I had never expected. I think the most important history skills that I have used are reading critically, paying attention to detail, not making assumptions, and being skeptical. Using these skills I have spotted mistakes in numerous documents, whether it is in their structure or chronology. Also, being able to formulate a chronology and possessing the ability to point out errors in an already provided chronology is an expertise that history majors are taught and expected to master. However, I never knew that this particular skill would be useful in the working world.

Q: What has been the hardest part of translating your classroom skills into the workplace?

A: The most difficult part of translating my classroom abilities to the workplace was asking questions. In a classroom, a professor is either always open to questions, or specifically asks, “Are there any questions?” However, in a new workplace it is sometimes a balancing act trying to find the appropriate time to ask a question. I did not want to be an annoyance, so at first I was reluctant to speak up. Over the first week, I realized that I did not need to be reluctant when asking questions; I just needed to be respectful. Everyone is busy in the office, so I only ask questions when I cannot continue my work without it being answered. Being concise when asking questions is also a part of respecting their time.

Q: So what do you do to after a busy week of classes and internship?

A: Most of my time outside my classes and internship goes towards the family business. My mother owns a hair salon, Salon OPA, so I have many responsibilities there that I am proud of. I manage the inventory, cash customers out, answer phone calls, and make appointments. I also have my apprentice license in cosmetology and makeup certification, so I can perform some services. One of the most rewarding parts of working at the salon is selling wigs to women who are going through cancer treatment or have alopecia. Working at the salon has given me a joy for business, and the appreciation of entrepreneurs of all kinds.

 

DeLury Wins Fulbright

Melissa DeLury ’10 received an MA in International Peace Studies from Trinity College, Dublin, and currently works as a Program Assistant at City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies. DeLury recently won a Fulbright-Nehru Open-Study/Research Award that will fund a project of hers in India. Upon learning that DeLury had earned this great honor, One Thing after Another hastened to ask her a series of question about her award.

Q: What is your Fulbright project, and what do you hope to achieve?

A: My project explores the effectiveness of the Indian Right to Education Act (RTE) in the state of Madhya Pradesh. RTE stipulated that every child in the 6-14 age group has a right to “full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.” The state governments are essentially responsible for carrying out this act. However, hardly any monitoring and evaluating mechanisms exist in the region that could assess if current efforts are addressing the barriers to education in Madhya Pradesh’s rural communities, which is the goal of this project. India places such a high importance on education, and it’s one of the key pillars of the US-India relationship. I’ll be working with Dr. Nirmala Menon (a former English professor at Saint A’s!) at the Indore Institute of Technology in Madhya Pradesh.  I’ll be traveling to schools in rural areas within Madhya Pradesh to conduct interviews and focus groups with students, families, educators, and community-based organizations to ascertain what barriers exist to accessing education. All findings will then be digitally shared through IIT’s Digital Humanities Research Group.

Q: How did you become interested in working in India?

A: India’s history is incredible, and I’ve always been interested in the culture. After I working in New York City for No Peace Without Justice and the International Crisis Group, I was looking for field experience in education development before going to graduate school. In 2012, an opportunity presented itself, through a family friend, to work in schools throughout the country for four months. Living and working alongside local communities in educational facilities enabled me to become more deeply connected to the population that I was serving. I saw that education was valued because it was the means to improve livelihoods and create opportunities for success. I also found that rural areas did not always receive the same quality and access of education as other areas which inspired my research in graduate school and this Fulbright project.  I knew that I had to come back!

Q: What are the challenges of working in India?

A: The two challenges that immediately come to mind are language and poverty. Hindi is the language spoken throughout the country. However, there are 22 official languages and many more dialects! When I went in 2012, I traveled from Goa, Bhopal, Nagar Haveli, Jaipur, to Varanasi—and every city had a different dialect. I felt like I couldn’t truly connect with the communities that I was serving. This time on the Fulbright grant, I’ll be proficient in Hindi, which I’m really excited about. Knowing the local language shows that you respect and appreciate the culture, and this will lead to stronger relationships. The other challenge is the level of poverty that you see throughout the country. When you see children and families suffering, you wonder what you’re doing—why you’re not working to help. This was also something that Spring Break Alternative, through Saint A’s Campus Ministry, focused on. I would have to think of Mother Teresa when she said “we cannot do all things, but small things with great love” and Father Oscar Romero when he claimed that “we plant the seeds that someday grow.” Bringing awareness to the barriers to accessing education in this small area of India will hopefully lead to greater access.

Q: What do you find rewarding about working in India?

A: The depth of its culture. Even when you first meet someone, you greet one another by saying “Namaste” or “my soul acknowledges your soul.” What a beautiful way to enter into a new relationship or conversation! It’s also reflective of the country, as everything usually has a deeper meaning behind it. I think this speaks to the incredible history of India, which as a history major I could not get enough of. India, like every country, has had its struggles. However, the beauty of its history is that all the different communities throughout the country, with their different languages, customs, and so on have often lived peacefully together for thousands of years. Also, I think it’s very rewarding to work on education projects here because there is such a desire to learn, and Indians do value education a great deal. I was amazed at how brilliant my students were when I was there in 2012. I led a seminar that discussed the ways in which American and Indian politics and history are both similar and different. They knew more about the upcoming presidential election than I did! By entering this country with a respect for their history and culture, I think you’d be amazed by the respect and generosity that you’ll receive in return. That is the most rewarding thing of working in India. Well, that and the food!

Q: How has the history major helped?

A: The history major helped in so many ways. First, it provided the skills that I needed to be successful in my positions after college and especially graduate school. I gained research, writing, editing, and presentation skills, as well as the ability to think critically. Secondly, it piqued my interest in peacebuilding and education. Through my classes in Russian, Middle Eastern, and African history, I became aware of the cyclical nature of conflict. I remember thinking “how can we use our knowledge of history to help break the cycle of conflict and achieve peace?” Often, it was through education and dialogue that peace was achieved. This is really the backbone of my Fulbright project. Lastly, I think the faculty of the history department is the most supportive. They were always to accessible and so passionate about what they were teaching! As an alumni, I’ve always been able to reach out to Professor Pajakowski and the department, which is how I started the conversation about pursuing a Fulbright through Saint Anselm. As a history major, you’ll always have the support of the department years after you graduate.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: I believe that education is the key to peace. My goal is to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of education policies and programs internationally. This Fulbright project is an incredible opportunity to learn how to do this and then use the research at the doctoral level. Eventually, I want to teach at the college level and also collaborate with leading NGOs and government agencies to evaluate our education programs overseas.

Jimmy Carter and the “Year of the Evangelicals” Reconsidered

Jimmy Carter and the “Year of the Evangelicals” Reconsidered
April 6-8, 2017
New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College
Manchester, New Hampshire

Saint Anselm College and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics invite you to attend the upcoming conference, “Jimmy Carter and ‘The Year of the Evangelicals’ Reconsidered.”

In 1976 Newsweek magazine borrowed a phrase from pollster George Gallup and proclaimed that year the “Year of the Evangelicals.” Both presidential candidates – Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter – claimed to be “born again” Christians, a claim made by one third of all Americans; and significant proportions of Protestants and Catholics told Gallup’s pollsters that the Bible should be taken literally, a marker of conservative evangelical Christianity. This phenomenon caught journalists by surprise, and they struggled to understand this new segment of the electorate, beginning at the top with the candidacy of Jimmy Carter. The election of 1976 brought evangelicals back into the political arena. While many of these people supported Carter’s candidacy and made the difference in his election, the ways in which they influenced public life quickly extended beyond Carter and the Democratic Party. It also marked evangelicals’ movement from the margins of intellectual and cultural life into the mainstream. Indeed, they soon became a political and cultural force.

Now an interdisciplinary group of international scholars will present recent scholarship on the place of black and white evangelicals in public life – including politics and popular culture – from the election of Jimmy Carter to the election of Donald Trump.

Keynote addresses by Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College and Kenneth Woodward, former religion editor of Newsweek magazine.

For more information and to register to attend, please contact Andrew Moore at Saint Anselm College (amoore@anselm.edu).

This conference made possible by the generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program.

Charles Murray, Free Speech, and the College Campus

No sooner had One Thing after Another posted an essay entitled “Milo Yiannopoulos, Free Speech, and the College Campus”  that Charles Murray’s encounter with protesters at Middlebury College became national news. In discussing Yiannopoulos, this blog developed various criteria that a school could use to determine which visitors are suitable to speak on a college campus. Do these ideas have any applicability to the Middlebury-Murray imbroglio?

A political scientist and sociologist currently associated with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Murray had been invited to Middlebury by a local student chapter of the AEI to speak about his latest work, Coming Apart: The State of White America (2012). Murray, however, is most famous (or infamous) for having co-authored The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994). Although the book’s claims about the relationship between intelligence and social status have inspired a great deal of criticism, it is the work’s arguments about the influence of race on intelligence that have sparked the most controversy. It is primarily for this reason that a number of students appeared at his lecture, began chanting, and prevented Murray from speaking. When it became clear that he would not be able to begin, let alone complete, his discussion, Middlebury College administrators went to Plan B, and took him to a room with an interviewer so their conversation could be live-streamed to the college community without interruption. When this interview was complete, Murray, Allison Stanger (the political science professor who interviewed Murray), and Bill Burger (VP for Communications and Chief Marketing Officer at Middlebury) were hustled out a back door by security to a waiting car. Unfortunately, a group of protesters was waiting for them. Stanger was yanked to the ground by her hair (suffering a concussion), and protesters banged and rocked the car as it inched its way out of the crowd.

Of course, news outlets, social media, and those who were there have attempted to impose a grand narrative on this incident: what happened at Middlebury College was depicted as an example of liberal intolerance, an archetypal expression of millennial snowflakery, evidence of the death of free speech on campuses, a symbol of the decline of higher education, a symptom of the college-aged generation’s inexperience in protesting, a skirmish in the battle between liberals and conservatives, a “metaphor for what is wrong with our country,” and so on. The certainty with which these interpretations are propounded contrast with the contradicting stories about just what exactly happened at Middlebury that evening. According to some, Middlebury’s administration all but abetted the protest while others (including Murray himself) argue that the administration acted in exemplary fashion. Charged by almost everybody with irresponsibility and malevolence, the students who protested have responded by claiming that some administrators (mainly Burger) along with various public safety officers engaged in “reckless and dangerous” behavior. And so it goes. Murray has made light of the situation, the protesters are unapologetic, the administration has wrung its hands (while trying to atone for an incident that has turned into a public relations disaster), and the nation seeks to project some meaning on this tempest in a teapot.

One Thing after Another would like to approach this issue from a different angle by asking if Murray should have been invited to Middlebury in the first place. After all, in discussing Milo Yiannopoulos, this blog argued that colleges have a right to bar speakers a) who were not experts in the subjects on which they were invited to speak and b) who treated their audiences without respect. And so the questions become: Is Murray an expert, and has he behaved courteously before his audiences?

Treating first things last and last things first, it would appear that the answer to the second question is a “yes.” Murray has been a regular on the college circuit and does not appear to have treated anybody with contumely. One could argue that by trafficking in racist ideas, Murray has insulted his auditors, but for a number of reasons, One Thing after Another would rather have concepts (and those who promote them) dismissed because of their wrongness, not their offensiveness.

Responding to the first question is somewhat more difficult. For one thing, this blog has argued that questions of expertise should be answered by experts, and this blog is not well versed in sociology. For another, One Thing after Another has asserted repeatedly that there are limits to what historians can and ought to do. This blog, then, hesitates to trespass upon the jurisdiction of another discipline and make definite claims about Murray’s proficiency. However, for the sake of argument, One Thing after Another will adduce certain facts that bear on the question.

The field of academic sociology seems to be either bemused by or hostile to Murray. Murray obtained a Ph.D. in political science from MIT and claims he is not a sociologist, but it is hard to describe what he does if it is not sociology. Critics find problems with his methodology, describe his fieldwork as idiosyncratic, and think his consideration of various questions somewhat blinkered. (See reviews of Coming Apart, his most influential recent work, here, here, and here. And here’s fellow conservative David Frum’s review, although, as Frum explains, he has had words with Murray.) The racism expressed in The Bell Curve (and with a copy at hand, it is quite clear to this blog that the assertions made in Chapter 13 and 14 are indeed racist), seems to be of a piece with research that is quirky and data that appear to be massaged. These problems with Murray’s published works are a function of the fact that they do not appear to have been peer reviewed. Neither The Bell Curve nor Coming Apart underwent a process that is widely considered indispensable to academic publishing. In some ways, though, this omission should not surprise us because Murray is not an academic writing for other academics; he clearly writes for a popular audience and has always enjoyed far more influence with politicians and journalists (witness the extraordinary impact of Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, which played a major role in the formulation of the Welfare Reform Act of 1994).

And yet . . . a number of experts in human intelligence stood by many of Murray’s assertions in The Bell Curve. Moreover, as even critics of Murray point out, he addresses important issues that not everybody feels comfortable confronting, his work is thought-provoking, and his books compel reviewers to articulate their own ideas more clearly. Perhaps we can even find ways to exculpate Murray of some of the charges brought against him. For instance, one could argue that we all make mistakes but those mistakes do not necessarily indicate that we are mountebanks. It is possible, that instead of being some sort of fraud, Murray is a sociologist—just not a very good one partly because he allows his biases (some of them more pernicious than others) to influence his work. Should he be flogged mercilessly for erring? Perchance, Murray, as a libertarian-conservative, is judged rather harshly by academic sociology, which is dominated by progressives.

Is Murray a peddler of “pseudoscience,” or is he a social scientist at a respected think tank who makes people unhappy because he touches upon sensitive matters? One could accumulate evidence to support either finding (One Thing or Another could really use an expert here, for “Awlus a muddle,” to quote Stephen Blackpool). The interesting point here is that if one were so inclined, it would be possible to challenge Murray’s claims to expertise. And that point allows us to engage in an interesting thought experiment. Say Murray is not really an expert and should not have been invited, and say the gatekeepers of the college failed in their duty to keep him away. How should the students have acted?

Shouting down a speaker and assaulting a professor are unacceptable, and One Thing after Another is not impressed by attempts to defend the behavior of the protesting students at Middlebury. This blog’s stance on Yiannopoulos would seem to suggest that students should not engage with a guest who shouldn’t have been invited in the first place. Such a reaction would have been better than what happened at Middlebury, but it would be a bit too easy for everyone—guest and students alike. Matthew Dickinson, a professor of political science at Middlebury, however, had a different solution. According to Dickinson’s blog:

Two days before Murray’s talk I spent my entire weekly politics luncheon discussing Murray’s research in the Bell Curve, and acquainting students with many of the critiques of his findings. My presentation was attended by a packed audience of students and local residents, and many of the students went away primed to do battle with Murray.  A few of them, drawing in part on my slide presentation, put together a pamphlet outlining five criticisms of Murray’s argument in the Bell Curve, which they placed on every seat in Wilson Hall.

In other words, Dickinson sought to prepare his students to challenge Murray. One Thing after Another believes audiences should prepare for non-experts in exactly this way (just as it should for experts). If those without expertise must come, the college community ought to make the best of the situation. Students and faculty should subject these guests to real academic scrutiny and make them understand what a true intellectual exchange really is. Maybe such guests will change their mind, maybe they will understand that no one is buying what they are selling, or maybe they will realize that they are out of their depth. Whatever the case, they might learn something. It is the best that can be hoped for if an administration fails in its task of manning the gate against charlatans. Yelling and pushing at Middlebury, however, led to lost opportunities as well as other pernicious consequences that protesters probably did not fully comprehend until later. As Dickinson points out:

Due to the actions of protesters, my students never had the opportunity to engage Murray beyond a few questions directed at him via Twitter. What’s worse, they now find themselves inaccurately characterized in media outlets as coddled, immature ‘snowflakes’ and ‘liberal fascists’ bent on promoting intolerance and hate.

And that surely does not sound like a satisfactory outcome.

History Majors Spearhead Debate

On February 18th and 19th, the Saint Anselm College Debate Team competed at the Emerson College Tournament and the Northeast Regional Championships held at Suffolk University. The team finished first place in both competitions for overall Debate Sweepstakes. Of the twelve members of the team, five are history majors: Greg Valcourt ’19, William Bearce ’19, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, Drew Collins ’19, and Ed Frankonis ’19. Both Frankonis and Collins competed at the tournaments, Collins finishing second place in Lincoln-Douglas policy debate at Emerson College and third place in the IPDA debate at the Regional Championships. Frankonis finished first place in Lincoln Douglas policy debate at the Regional Championships and second place in IPDA at Emerson.

Frankonis, a sophomore History major from Maine, chose Saint Anselm College for the small size of the student body. As he explains, “It seemed like it would be easier to get involved here.” As a history major, Frankonis enjoys finding “answers to the questions we ask about our society’s problems . . . in past answers.” One Thing after Another sat down with Frankonis to discuss his recent debate victories and the skills he has developed through the study of history.

The two variations of debate require different preparations and skills. In the Lincoln-Douglas policy debate, students receive a topic in July or August. This year’s topic was the role of the military in Latin America. As Frankonis explains, the debaters “argue for and against the resolution during the tournament.  In each round, you try to defend your evidence, promote your side of the aisle, and try to ‘take away’ parts of your opponent’s argument. The round lasts around twenty minutes, and at the end of it, the judge gives his/her decision.” Preparation for these kinds of debate tournaments is time consuming: “Lincoln-Douglas debaters prepare by meeting twice a week and dedicating around 3-4 hours during those times polishing our cases, refining our arguments, and plugging any holes that were discovered during last tournament. . . 5-6 hours of non-meeting preparation are usually involved for Lincoln-Douglas.”

IPDA, or International Public Debate Forum, on the other hand, tests general knowledge and speaking skills more than the research skills demanded in the Lincoln-Douglas policy debate. According to Frankonis, two debaters “arrive and are given a list of five or so topics. They take turns ‘striking’ each topic, until only one remains  Both debaters then get thirty minutes to prepare an argument (for or against, depending on your role), and then spend around twenty minutes arguing for or against said topic. These topics can range from which superhero is better to the morality of drone warfare, and change each round. After the round, the debaters leave, and the judge makes his/her decision.”

Farnkonis’s dominant performances can be attributed to a supportive team, skills he learns in class, and a lot of practice. After each tournament, the debaters receive ballots from judges that are “chock-full of feedback.” After the team reads this feedback, “[they] share [their] general experiences at the tournament, [and they] exchange insight, share advice, and talk about the mistakes [they] made during rounds.”

Frankonis credits his debate skills to his previous three years of experience in mock Senate debate in high school, as well as the skills he has developed as a history major: “Knowing how institutions came about, how problems evolved, and the stories of the various actors involved in those problems gives debaters a nice edge in round. . . . Other skills learned from being a history major include research skills and the ability to smoothly transition from one debate format to another.” Frankonis thinks skills learned in debate help him in the classroom as well: “being a debater means you are actively learning skills that can be employed in debates over the consequences of historical events.”

After his first-place finish in Lincoln-Douglas policy debate at the Regional Championships, Frankonis received an invite to the National competition. Unfortunately, due to a family commitment, Frankonis will not be attending.  Next year, he plans to permanently and exclusively switch to IPDA, “focusing more on being well-rounded with [his] topic knowledge.”

The debate team currently meets on Mondays and Thursdays on the third floor of Goulet, from 6:30-8:30.

NOTE: In the photograph above, from left to right, are Drew Collins, Greg Valcourt, Ed Frankonis, Lily-Gre Hitchen, and William Bearce. 

Milo Yiannopoulos, Free Speech, and the College Campus

milo-yiannopoulos

At the beginning of February, in the wake of protests and riots at UC Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulos’ proposed visit, One Thing after Another thought it possessed sufficient inspiration to write a post about free speech at colleges—especially as it applied to guests invited to speak on campus. Life intervened, however, and this blog did not quite get around to producing an essay on the topic. Now that Yiannopoulos is back in the news because he has lost his CPAC invitation, his book contract with Simon & Schuster, and his job at Breitbart (all because of his assertion that thirteen-year-old boys have the potential to engage in “consensual” sexual relationships with men twice their age), One Thing after Another feels it has enough momentum to write about free speech. By what standard should one judge whether a Yiannopoulos should be admitted to speak at a campus?

One Thing after Another starts with the proposition that institutions of higher learning, public and private alike, have a right to invite or not invite guests as they wish. Even public schools are not public forums, and administrators have the right to restrict entry when school is in session. The question, of course, is on what grounds administrators should exclude guest speakers from campus.

For reasons that will become very clear, One Thing after Another believes that colleges should ask for something more of their guests than mere legal speech. Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), which supersedes the “fire in a crowded theater” argument laid down by U.S. v. Schenck (1919), sets a fairly low bar. Inflammatory speech that advocates violence is protected unless it “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” And thus, a conviction against Brandenburg (a local leader of the Ohio Ku Klux Klan) for burning a cross and promising “revengeance” against “n******” and “Jews” was overturned. One Thing after Another would prefer not to see cross-burning (or even flag-burning) on campus—not because these things are offensive (which they are) but because they do not advance the mission of a college.

That mission, however, has become increasingly unclear in recent years. Those now in charge of universities are not as well equipped to understand or articulate that purpose as they used to be. Administrators, as Stephen Carter, a law professor at Yale, argued at an Aspen Ideas Festival last year, increasingly do not come from academic backgrounds and do not necessarily understand academic freedom. Trained as administrators, they see their job as “to damp down problems” and avoid all controversy. “They have,” Carter adds, “no sense of the mission of a university.” A constellation of factors have further clouded that sense of mission. For example, due to the increasingly difficult economic environment in which they operate, college is often sold as many different products. These products run the gamut from preparation for the job market to a transformative experience in which the whole person is made anew. Everything from the curriculum to residential life has responded to these pressures, and the jurisdiction of the college has expanded to include more aspects of student life than ever before. Under these circumstances, it is easy to lose sight of what is central to university life and what is ancillary.

So what is central? One could do worse (especially if one works at a Catholic institution) than refer to The Idea of a University by Cardinal John Henry Newman. According to Newman, the point of a university was the “culture of the intellect” or the “real cultivation of the mind.” What was wanted, he argued, was the “the force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the versatility of intellect, the command over our own powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before us, which sometimes indeed is a natural gift, but commonly is not gained without much effort and the exercise of years.” A real education allowed one to escape a “youth” in which one was “merely dazzled by phenomena, instead of perceiving things as they are.” He favored a liberal education that developed an understanding of how the particulars in the world were united in a single whole. To his way of thinking, a liberal education was an end in itself.

Newman wrote much that was sensible in The Idea of a University. For our purposes, he discussed a number of ideas that are worth remembering today. He expressed a reverence in his approach to liberal education; it was a serious means to the important end of adopting a broad view of the world and thus understanding its unity. He believed such an education should be conducted within a diverse and earnest educational community. And he intimated that it should be carried on by instructors who practiced what they preached—people who were experts in their fields but not so narrowly focused that they could not see the forest for the trees.

These ideas about the mission of a college and how to attain it provide us with some guidance when it comes to determining what kinds of guests should be invited to speak on campus. Above all else, guests must support the ends and means of a liberal education. The other criteria merely follow from this point.

First, guests must be experts in the fields on which they will speak. Clearly, a school can define “expertise” in a variety ways (how this blog defines expertise will become fairly evident). However, it is One Thing after Another’s impression that this definition should be somewhat more restrictive than it has been as of late. Guests have often been invited with an eye toward publicity, and that often means celebrities  find themselves before college audiences where they do not belong. If you need examples, think of the many, many commencement speeches delivered at various schools every year by actors, athletes, comedians, singers, and so on. Or check these ones out (which are just the tip of the iceberg). People without any connection to the pursuit of liberal education often do not recognize its significance, display sufficient respect for it, or possess any understanding of its protocols. Providing them with a forum to speak on campuses trivialize education.

If what is wanted these days is informed discussion, then it would also appear that a variety of notorieties should also be blocked from campus—figures who are engaged in various public debates but who have nothing profound, learned, or substantive to contribute to those debates. For example, there is no need to invite David Duke or Richard Spencer to campus for a discussion of race; neither has any great insight into the topic. In response to those who will inevitably cry that Duke or Spencer are being censored, One Thing after Another retorts that plenty of other venues are available to them, and colleges need not waste time on their nonsense. For the same reason, we need not invite Holocaust deniers or Creationists. Students should not be presented with all manner of shoddy arguments unsupported by evidence; they need to choose from among the best.

Second, guests ought to respect their audiences by not only deploying arguments based on a thorough understanding of the topic at hand but also by avoiding gratuitous insult. There is no other way to go about persuading one’s auditors within the free market of ideas that underpins a liberal education. In this context, it is important to point out the difference between experts who express opinions that may give offense and those who express opinions offensively. For example, one may find Peter Singer’s views extremely repugnant, but he is an enormously influential ethicist, a recognized expert in his field, and a figure who is willing to engage in respectful debate. Attempts to silence him (and there have been many) are out of order; they suggest that opponents have no compelling counterarguments. On the other hand, threats and insults leveled at various minorities are inarticulate and baseless arguments that are calculated to inspire fear and anger. They appeal to emotions, not the intellect. Again, colleges should not turn away articulate and learned speakers with controversial arguments, but they have every right to ignore fatuous ideas poorly expressed.

Is this post arguing for deference to the experts? When it comes to inviting guests to speak at a campus that seeks to promote the intellectual life, yes (different rules apply, though, when it comes to free speech within the campus community—but that’s a topic for another, more complicated post).

The main idea to keep in mind is that academic freedom is a means to an end, and for that reason, it is limited. As Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, claimed at the same roundtable at the Aspen Ideas Festival where Stephen Carter also spoke,

Academic freedom is not the ability to do whatever the hell you want on campus because it’s an academic place. Academic freedom is a professional freedom. It’s about research and intellectual work. It’s not about saying whatever you want.

It is for all these reasons that Milo Yiannopoulos has no business on a college campus. He could serve no other purpose, really, than to play the part of the drunken helot. It is hard to see how Yiannopoulos is an expert on anything. His relentless humiliation of others is an integral part of his method of argument—and does little to persuade. What he seeks to do instead is provoke. Yet he is a provocateur of the worst sort; he does not seem to believe in anything—or at least he gives that impression. As Slate puts it, “You can’t treat the ideas of Milo Yiannopoulos as though they are worthy of debate, because Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t treat them as being worthy of debate.” In other words, he displays a lack of the earnestness and sincerity that Newman found so important in his reverential approach to learning. Yiannopoulos’ “shtick” tends toward dissolving taboos and the idea of objective truth for the sake of destroying what he sees as a “leftist-PC” totalitarianism. He is free to do whatever he wants in other public venues, but a higher standard obtains at a college which seeks to promote a broad understanding of the world through the respectful exchange of facts and ideas. Otherwise, when confronted with a seemingly amoral and intellectually destructive charlatan, we in the academe might find ourselves at a loss and, like Larry Wilmore, say something that is not altogether productive intellectually. And that benefits no one.