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Ben Sasse

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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Two weeks ago, the president of the University of Florida, Ben Sasse, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. I wish other university presidents would read what he wrote and apply these same lessons to their college.

He tells “parents and future employers: We’re not perfect, but the adults are still in charge.” The school’s response to protests and encampments is driven by three basic truths.

First, “universities must distinguish between speech and action.” Speech isn’t violence. Throwing fists, storming buildings, vandalizing property is violence. Universities are supposedly in the business of discovering knowledge and passing it on. “The heckler gets no veto. The best arguments deserve the best counterarguments.”

Second, “universities must say what they mean and then do what they say.” Administrators at many of these colleges are issuing empty threats. He reminds us how ineffective that is with a 2-year-old. It doesn’t work any better with a 20-year-old. “Moving classes online is a retreat that penalizes students and rewards protesters.”

He made it clear to protesters that: “We will always defend your rights to free speech and free assembly—but if you cross the line on clearly prohibited activities, you will be thrown off campus and suspended.” He reminds them that they are a university, not a daycare.

Third, “universities need to recommit themselves to real education.” He laments that professors and their schools have adopted a rigid and dogmatic view of identity politics. As I have mentioned in a previous commentary, many of the students chanting “from the river to the sea” do not even know the name of the river or the sea.

Ben Sasse concludes that it is time for universities to do their jobs again. The first start is to read his op-ed, and then have college presidents apply it to their school.viewpoints new web version

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