Pepperdine University School of Public Policy’s Pete Peterson offered some optimism for free speech in the wake of ongoing campus protests and hostility against opposing viewpoints.
A recent campus protest targeted Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett as she spoke at the University of Minnesota. A group of about ten protesters attempted to shout down Barrett before they were escorted out by campus police.
This followed several protests throughout the country in favor of the Palestinian people following the Hamas attack against Israel earlier this month, leading to many Jewish students expressing fears of going to class.
Peterson spoke to Fox News Digital about the importance of what his school calls “viewpoint diversity” to counter this pattern.
“I would say that Pepperdine and certainly the School of Public Policy, we have a saying we call viewpoint diversity. It’s right on the home page of our website. And that’s really the commitment that allows that students should be able to express themselves inside the classroom as long as they’re doing it in a civil way. But we really do believe that how you prepare public leaders is to understand how the other side thinks,” Peterson said.
The School of Public Policy’s website features the statement, “To say that academia is politically progressive is a generally accepted fact of American life. But for a graduate policy program tasked with preparing our next generation of public leaders, it is of primary importance that we practice viewpoint diversity both inside and outside the classroom. In today’s polarized public square, leaders must know not only their own intellectual foundations, but also those with whom they disagree.”
Peterson also offered advice on how universities can improve on promoting viewpoint diversity.
“We’re seeing more universities sign on to what’s called the Chicago Principles. These were developed by the University of Chicago, and, they might be customized for particular universities, but they are essentially a set of principles around the defending of free speech on college campuses. I think that’s just the start. There needs to be a university wide endorsement and support for free speech and civil discourse,” Peterson said.
He added, “At the next level, and this gets into, you know, issues all about inside the classroom, I do think it’s important that colleges are thinking about their hiring, that they are thinking about issues of viewpoint diversity in their hiring bill. A number of universities there’s not a single conservative faculty member in entire departments. And in that I think you tend to lose a sense of perspective if, in faculty meetings and research in student teaching, there’s not at least some diversity of thought there.”
Peterson also complimented recent efforts by donors and alumni to pull funding in response to pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiments by universities and student groups.
“I think this is also one of the big stories that’s been revealed in these last few days, is that donors and alumni are becoming much more aware of what’s going on there and where they are giving. And I do think that donors, parents and alumni are going to play an increasingly important role in helping to bring about this kind of commitment to viewpoint diversity, which is going to be necessary on college campuses for years to come.”
Since many student groups have come out against Israel following the Hamas terror attacks, several donors have begun pulling their funding while encouraging others to do the same.
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