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Free Speech Not Valued at UC Santa Cruz By: Santa Cruz Sentinel
SantaCruzSentinel.com | Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The cancellation of a job fair at UC Santa Cruz is more evidence of one of the biggest failures in American higher education.

The free exchange of ideas and the diversity of thought is something that ought to be valued. Unfortunately, because of a climate that exists throughout universities in America, true independent thought often isn't valued — especially if it doesn't go along with the popular, often liberal notions on campus.

The job fair was canceled because of safety concerns that have arisen during protests of past fairs. The target of the protests are military recruiters.

Here's what one student protester had to say about the situation: "Administrators don't understand student activists' basic standpoint that military recruitment is not wanted at UCSC and we will continue to act in a nonviolent manner to ensure a military-free campus"

Even as we can appreciate the passion in the statement, we can't understand this student's complete lack of understanding of freedom of speech. Protesters themselves benefit from that freedom, and they're free to protest. Nothing wrong with that.

But past protests have been unruly and have included threats, shoving and spitting. The arrogance of that behavior is clear: we don't like the military, so it has no right to be here. And students who disagree with us have no right to talk to them.

The reality, of course, is that there are students who are interested in a military career. And whether a shouting, shoving group of protesters likes it or not — these students have a right to meet with whomever they want.

This "I'm right, you're wrong" attitude pervades the American university system, and it's a great failing of campuses today. Too often, the attitude in lecture halls and in informal discussions is that inclusiveness and diversity has its limits.

Diversity is valued on campus in some forms — racially and culturally are two examples. But does that sense of diversity extend to — gasp! — conservatives?

The mere appearance several months ago of members of the University of California Board of Regents brought on howls of outrage from some students angered by the mere sight of a regent on campus.

We don't mean to say that everyone on campus is intolerant. Far from it. In fact, we appreciate that UCSC leadership in the past — including that of the late Chancellor Denice Denton — worked hard to allow military recruiters on campus. Many administrators understand that freedom of speech ought to apply to all.

But the so-called "politically correct" culture on America's campuses continues to work against allowing dialogue from across the political spectrum.

It's too bad that a full commitment to freedom of speech isn't at the cornerstone of thought on campus. Being educated doesn't mean that you're tolerant in some areas and not others.

And here at UCSC, there's another issue worth mulling over. If the military is unable to recruit university-educated students, does that mean that the entire armed forces should be made up of those who never went to college?

The protesters think that they've won a victory with the cancellation of the job fair. Perhaps someday even they will realize that they haven't.

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