February 12, 2018
UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D., wrote a piece that was recently published by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram as a “Maine Voices” column. “Just another echo chamber? Higher education’s identity crisis” discusses the importance of acknowledging the left-leaning nature of college campuses and taking steps to remedy the imbalance.
Herbert argues for keeping a vast liberal majority in check because it is the role of higher education to expose students to new ways of thinking. “The marketplace of ideas cannot function optimally without a range of perspectives in the mix,” he writes. “And the integrity of this marketplace is more important today than ever, as social media and cable news have created self-contained intellectual bubbles, limiting opportunities for discourse among competing perspectives.”
Furthermore, he asserts that addressing the imbalance “will help restore public confidence in the academy” so the important roles that institutions of higher education serve will not be “overshadowed by perceptions of political bias.”
Herbert suggests valuing ideological diversity in faculty hiring and in academic program design, and he encourages colleges and universities to stop bowing to the pressure of student threats to protest controversial speakers. Rather than cancel events in these situations, he says, “we should insist that speakers participate in panel discussions or question-and-answer sessions with others holding different views.”
“Our nation’s colleges and universities are among the most successful and enduring institutions the world has ever known, and are critical to the good functioning of civil society,” he states. “But they can achieve their full potential only if they foster ideological diversity and robust dialogue.”
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