Update 12/4/17: The Columbia Democrats have retracted the statement we praised and replaced it with a message undercutting their original premise.
Nick Phillips, Research Associate at Heterodox Academy and President of the NYU School of Law Federalist Society, has a new piece in The American Conservative on the need for Conservative campus groups to invite more measured, academic speakers as opposed to provocateurs that inflame tensions and deepen tribalism. Using a recent case where Mike Cernovich spoke at Columbia University at the invitation of the College Republicans, Phillips praises the response from campus Democrats and provides a blueprint for a reasoned exchange of ideas and a new process to advance viewpoint diversity.
Speakers like Cernovich really do erode the opportunity for discourse on campus, by polarizing students into opposing camps with speech designed to engage tribal emotion rather than reason. And extreme protest tactics really do make the problem worse—amplifying the trolls while turning off moderates who might otherwise be supportive of the protesters’ message.
It’s no secret that the campus left has done much to erode the quality of discourse at American universities. But the campus right has been happily playing along, often sharing the far-left’s desire to turn campuses into battlefields at the expense of our social fabric. Many campus conservatives have chosen shock value and viral attention over intellectual rigor—nothing else explains the presence of angry buffoons like Cernovich at places like Columbia University…
Conservative groups on campus would do well to look to the concept of “virtuous discourse,” which is central to the mission of an innovative cross-partisan network of college students called BridgeUSA. BridgeUSA isn’t about watering down the debate—its founder was responsible for inviting conservative firebrand Ann Coulter to the University of California Berkeley campus earlier this year (she ended up canceling due to the threat of violent protests). But it does demand what they call “virtuous discourse,” which acknowledges that free speech may bring no benefits to campus unless speakers honor certain responsibilities: to truth, to civility, to respect, to decorum. These words have a conservative valence, and a nobler mission—a community dedicated to the pursuit of truth and learning.