Friday, April 11, 2014

Orthodoxy and the University

You may have heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a activist with strong views about the role of women in Islamic societies. She was to be honored with an honorary degree at Brandeis University, a university known for being unafraid to honor people with unpopular views. In Ms. Ali's case, however, Brandeis backed down in the face of criticism of (we are being told ) students and faculty. Brandeis cancelled Ms. Ali's honorary degree. Today, in the Wall Street Journal she published "Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis." I do not want to debate here, or even put out for debate here, the underlying issues that were swirling around Ms. Ali and her personal history. What I do want to do is to reproduce from her article a quote about the role of open inquiry at a university:

"When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.
One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I'm used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen."

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