Onwuka In Real Clear Education: Fighting for Viewpoint Diversity One Commencement Address at a Time

In an op-ed published June 30, 2023 in Real Clear Education, adjunct senior fellow at Philanthropy Roundtable and a spokesperson for the Roundtable’s True Diversity campaign Patrice Onwuka argues for free speech on college campuses. She highlights the role of private philanthropy in supporting the protection of free speech and embracing viewpoint diversity.  

Below are excerpts from the article entitled Fighting for Viewpoint Diversity One Commencement Address at a Time”: 

“Unfortunately, the impact of a 20-minute speech, no matter how memorable, cannot undo the chilling effect on free speech caused by years of restrictive codes, speech regulation zones, social ostracism, academic retaliation and unfair disciplinary action. The primary purpose of higher education is to offer advanced learning opportunities, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and provide specialized training in various fields. However, these goals are undermined when speech is no longer free.” 

… 

“Grassroots organizations and funders concerned about the state of free speech on and off campuses have recognized the threat posed by censorship and its negative impact on intellectual diversity in higher education. Free speech is essential for creating environments where ideas can be shared, discussed and debated in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. In recent years, a significant movement has emerged to protect free speech on campuses. One aspect of this untold story is the role of private philanthropy in supporting these efforts. 

“Thanks to the efforts of organizations like FIRE, two dozen state legislatures, from California to Virginia, have passed laws prohibiting the suppression of student speech on both public and private college campuses. FIRE also assists students and professors in seeking legal remedies through the courts. 

“Heterodox Academy equips students, academics and administrators with tools to promote viewpoint diversity and open dialogue. They conduct campus self-censorship surveys and encourage commitments to academic freedom in faculty job postings.” 

… 

“Beyond restoring free speech on college campuses, American society must embrace viewpoint diversity as part of the broader conversation on diversity. True diversity encompasses more than just demographic differences, which receive the most attention today. Each individual is more than his or her skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, native language or country of origin. People are complex beings with a myriad of lived experiences, beliefs, backgrounds, values and viewpoints that challenge the stereotypes associated with their demographic group.” 

To read the complete article, please visit Real Clear Education

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