David Wippman.

Two essays, co-authored by President David Wippman and Cornell Professor Glenn Altschuler, were published on consecutive weekends in November in The Hill and distributed broadly on Microsoft’s web news portal MSN.

The first, “Higher education’s perfect storm is becoming a tsunami,” appearing on Nov. 12, addressed the multiple controversies affecting college campuses, most recently the Israeli and Hamas war. The authors viewed this latest issue as “turning a perfect storm for colleges and universities into a tsunami” as Americans’ confidence in higher education continued to plunge.

“The challenges facing academic institutions are daunting. All the more reason, in our judgment, for leaders in higher education to make a more concerted effort to inform legislators and a skeptical public how they are addressing them,” the authors wrote.

On a positive note, they observed, “All that said, on average, college graduates are happier than peers who did not attend college. They earn morelive longerpay more in taxescontribute more to their communities, and “make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting” — to say nothing of the intellectual, social and aesthetic interests college inspires.”

In “What the history of campus hate speech codes teaches us about fighting antisemitism” published on Nov. 19, the authors listed incidents that have left Jewish students feeling unsafe on various campuses. They also noted that, “Confronted with escalating demands for action, college and university presidents have issued statements condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia and launched antisemitism task forces.” They wrote that extreme demands to fire faculty and sanction students using hateful rhetoric “[do] not end well. Under First Amendment principles, which govern public institutions and have been adopted by most private colleges and universities, speech is protected unless it constitutes a true threat, incitement to imminent unlawful action, or harassment.”

The authors offered a summary of the evolution of speech codes in the 1990s and noted that “40 years of experience demonstrate that hate speech codes are “ineffective” at best, and, at worst, may actually increase levels of intolerance.”

In observing that many “blur the line between conduct that may be prohibited and speech that should be protected,” they offered solutions as to how colleges might react in the future to these challenges.

They concluded their essay with the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that “we must ensure ‘not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate.’”

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search