He began his career as a young McGovernite, but personal experiences led him to reevaluate his political beliefs and he became a conservative. Voicing those beliefs in opposition to all of his colleagues only resulted in a negative impact on his career, so he did what many professors in that position do—he kept his mouth shut. Only then did he receive the promotion he deserved. In the years leading up to his retirement, however, he decided to speak out once more. The reaction from his colleagues wasn’t a vigorous debate, or even a mere discussion. Instead, they essentially ignored him, dismissing his ideas out of hand.
Unfortunately, Professor Lipsman’s experience is all too common. I know I’m not the only one who knew a conservative or Christian professor who dared not speak out until they received tenure. And the ADF Center for Academic Freedom is currently representing Professor Mike Adams, who found out the hard way what happens to a professor who dares to convert to Christianity and speak about it prior to becoming a full professor.
Professor Lipsman’s description of his experience should send chills down the spine of any freedom loving person, conservative or liberal:
I was not the only one failing to make waves. In fact, there were no waves whatsoever. There was no debate, no controversy; just the calm serenity of a campus at peace with its almost universally accepted mind set. I attribute this to three things. First, of course, anyone raising an objection was viewed, as I was, as hopelessly out of it and worthy only of being ignored. This has a chilling effect, perhaps even more effective than derision. Second, I suspect that those who believed as I did were still in lockdown mode — for the same reasons as I was over the years. And third, I believe the liberal brainwash has been so effective on campus — and in the national educational system in general — that many in the liberal majority can’t even fathom that there is anyone who doubts the legitimacy of their point of view.
It is frightening to realize that those in academia—those charged with thinking of new ideas, challenging our assumptions, making new discoveries—are so closed-minded to any ideas outside of the accepted norm on campus that they refuse to even entertain them.
This has serious implications, not just for individual professors discriminated against because of their beliefs, or students who learn only one perspective. As the Supreme Court stated many years ago, “[t]he essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident. . . . Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.” Keyishian v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of N.Y., 385 U.S. 589, 603 (1967) (quoting Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957)).
It is not overstating the case, then, to say that free inquiry in our colleges and universities has a direct impact on our democracy as we know it. All of us, regardless of political belief, should hope that colleges and universities soon learn that “diversity” means more than skin color, and embrace their role as the marketplace of ideas once again.