Kenneth J. Fortier: Campus cauldrons

April 21, 2014 

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Two April 18 Point of View pieces appeared in response to news of UNC administrators’ request that Professor Gene Nichol add a disclaimer and provide advance notice of potentially provocative columns.

In “The politics of poverty,” Michael Jacobs took issue with the degree of “intellectual honesty” in liberal positions on improving the condition of the poor.

In “Two faces of freedom,” Jane S. Shaw compared Nichol’s situation with UNCW Professor Mike Adams being denied promotion to full professor “in retaliation for expressing his Christian and conservative beliefs,” asking, “Which (situation) is worth more attention?”

As described, both cases are important. Intellectual freedom in academia is not a trivial issue. Universities exist to teach and expose students to what is understood about our world. Until a perfect state of knowledge is attained, they must also be the cauldrons where ideas interact and meld.

The administrators’ concerns are understandable on the surface, but university leaders have a particular responsibility. Any implication to be wary of the sensitivities of powers-that-be is chilling and must be avoided. By definition, bending discourse to their will prevents change that can make our world better and paradoxically makes both institutions less worthy of our support.

Kenneth J. Fortier

Raleigh

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