Freedom on Campus in the Red: St. John’s University Edition

Today, our society faces challenges. Many divisive issues have taken the forefront of the national debate including economic policy, the role of government and culture war issues. In the twenty-first century, the American people have increasingly relied upon social media as their news source. It has its positives and negatives. It is much easier to access information, however, it takes away from the initiative to seek out further information and challenge one’s self with substantive truths. The role of the education system must bridge this gap, but sadly it continues to fall short. The rhetoric of informed debate, no matter if you are on the right or left helps grow the intellect of the nation in a manner to prioritize matters of reason over emotional “cancel” initiatives that ignore comprehensive dialogue. The conclusion and outcome driven agenda conveniently skip over the reasoning process that is critical to the development of sound intellect and exchange of knowledge. As a result, we have a divided society filled with misinformation guiding masses behind hollow false premises rich in click bait but light on informed truth.

           Institutions of higher learning have largely abdicated their responsibility to adequately educate the young minds that will serve as the future. It begs one to wonder- will the future be served with reasonable interests and comprehensive dialogue to bridge differences or continue on this emotional path that leaves a fiery path of ruin, an intellectual crisis? This issue has gripped the entire nation. In recent years, speakers have been cancelled at university campuses for perceived societal injustices that are politically incorrect and facilitate dialogue on major issues. Professors have been removed from their positions for holding views that critically assess historical interpretations of the pre-origin and origin of this nation. There is not a sustained appetite for academic freedom and a true marketplace of ideas.

            A recent example has recently occurred in New York at St. John’s University. Students had sought to organize a Turning Point USA Chapter on campus, but have been obstructed in the recognition process by the campus student government. The decision against enactment was based in part on debatable media rhetoric that mercilessly attacked major national Turning Point USA figure Charlie Kirk and inaccurate allegations that members of Turning Point were part of the January 6 riot at the capitol. Sentiment seeking to justify the decision was based on alleged opportunities for division on campus on heated issues that Turning Point allegedly promotes. Per the Turning Point mission statement, its goal is to “educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”[1] This is not a militant organization nor should be classified as one. Relying on resources from bias left-wing articles as support for a misguided student government decision, while at the same time incorporating defamatory and inaccurate language about one of Turning Point’s major national leaders is wholly unacceptable.

            The students at St. John’s are just seeking for their voice to be recognized on campus and for an opportunity to promote their message in a respectful way. Currently, on campus St. John’s recognizes the Roosevelt Institute, an organization that promotes left leaning values and principles. While it would not be acceptable if right leaning student government leaders sought to “cancel” or obstruct recognition of this student group based on its perceived disagreeable and controversial views, the same courtesy should be shown in the present situation by left leaning student government leaders and their approach to the recognition process of Turning Point USA at St. John’s University.

           The university setting should be a place of a respectful debate and dialogue on major issues that will help shape the compass of students as they approach their professional lives. In the professional landscape, no matter what career one pursues they are bound to encounter those of different philosophies. Respect for differing viewpoints in the university setting is preparation for this critical step in professional and personal growth.

          President Ronald Reagan visited St. John’s University on March 25, 1985 and gave an address to the students. One quote really stood out and we would be wise to consider it today. President Reagan gracefully articulated that “we’re a people who’ve discovered anew what a deep foundation freedom is and how we cannot live without drinking deep from it.”[2]

Let us not leave our students and our future leaders thirsty.


[1] https://www.tpusa.com/ourmission

[2] https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/archives/speech/remarks-students-and-faculty-st-johns-university-new-york-new-york

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