Introducing HxA’s new Q+A series where we chat with members about their scholarship, intellectual life, and issues around open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement. 

Today’s exchange is with two student affiliate members, Noah J. Ritter and Maizy Thorvaldson. Noah is a senior at the University of California Berkeley, majoring in political science. Maizy is a fourth year student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Both are involved in the HxUndergraduate Community, as well HxA’s ongoing Undergrad Affiliate Conversation series.

What does “heterodoxy” mean to you?
Noah: I think of heterodoxy like a close relative of tolerance and progress. It means acknowledging that our perspective is only one of many perspectives, and that real progress is achieved when opposing ideas can be reconciled and synthesized into entirely new ones.

Maizy: Heterodox isn’t an ideology, rather, it is a relative position. To be heterodox is to be in contrast to whatever the orthodoxy happens to be. However, being openly heterodox requires fortitude and moral courage because it is challenging, and often isolating, to stand in opposition to dominant ideologies.

What drew you to the HxA mission?
Noah: Truth matters. I believe students deserve to be protected from unjust targeting and suppression by their peers. I also think we should empower victims to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard and they deserve to know their voices matter. 

What inspires you to advocate for viewpoint diversity and open inquiry on your campus?

Maizy: I believe that the freedom to speak one’s mind is a rare and precious right that we must aim to preserve. There is an existential need to affirm the values of tolerance, ideological pluralism, and constructive disagreement in our society. Without a diversity of perspectives at the table, we may never discover the best answers to the most pertinent questions of our time.

Tell us about the expression climate on your campus. What are students comfortable/not comfortable to discuss? Are there student groups or campus centers who are working to change the expression climate?

Maizy: We have a Students for Freedom Expression (SFE) club on campus, which has received tremendous scrutiny and aggressive pushback. The SFE does not endorse all of the speakers they host. Still, they provide a platform for dialogue on controversial topics, which offers students and the community an opportunity to engage with perspectives they may not have encountered before. There is also a Philosophy Students Association, which has proved to be an excellent group for open-minded discussion and debates. 

What do you love most about university life?

Maizy: I love studying history and finding modern wisdom in ancient texts. I love philosophy and the search for knowledge and justice. I love engaging with new ideas and perspectives. I believe this is the purpose of the academy.

Noah: I love that every day brings endless opportunities to grow. As soon as I step on campus, I am imbued with a sense of purpose and gratitude, being surrounded by so many expert faculty members and passionate students. The responsibility I feel to make positive change for the people I care about, and the duty I feel to contribute to the legacy of my university, always keeps me going when things get stressful.

Tell us about your education plan?

Maizy: I want to pursue a MA and a Ph.D. However, since academia is becoming increasingly intolerant to open inquiry, I feel somewhat discouraged. That said, the newly launched University of Austin Texas (UATX) has given me hope. I plan to apply for the Summer ’22 program and am considering seeking a master’s there (in politics and applied history). It would be an honor to participate in a potentially paradigm-shifting project like UATX!

Noah: After graduating next year with a B.A. in political science, I intend to apply to law school and pursue a career in intellectual property law—combining my passions for justice, technology, and art to empower innovators and protect freedom of expression.

Is there a book that particularly influenced you and/or that you would recommend to other HxA members?
Noah: Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals left an indelible mark on me in my early days as an undergraduate. His fiery defense of community organizing as a means for achieving institutional change provides valuable insights about the democratic process and invites courageous young scholars of all backgrounds to become changemakers.