No Respect for Diversity of Opinion or Choice

David Zweig notes an important correlation:

The colleges with the most stifling atmospheres for speech also have the most aggressive Covid vaccine policies. The colleges that most welcome and protect a free exchange of ideas, in turn, have the least intrusive vaccine requirements.

Number 1 ranked [on Fire’s Free Speech Index, AT] Chicago has no vaccine mandate at all. The university merely “strongly recommends” Covid vaccination. Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5 on the list – Kansas StatePurdueMississippi State, and Oklahoma State – do not require any Covid vaccination either. They do each highly encourage vaccination, though.

At the bottom, Columbia not only requires the primary series for its students, but also requires the most recent bivalent booster. Ditto for second-to-last place Penn. For the many students who received an initial booster early on, this means a requirement of four doses. Rounding out the worst five colleges for free speech, Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteGeorgetown, and Skidmore also mandate all students be boosted. Though compared to Columbia and Penn they are relatively lax, only requiring “a booster,” meaning the third shot could have been from a long while ago, and not necessarily the bivalent.

Why are the colleges with the worst limits on free speech also the worst for limiting bodily autonomy?

Columbia and its ilk had a history of liberalism which, as is well-known now, has recently morphed into a more stifling form of modern progressivism that doesn’t tolerate dissent. The political tribalism that demands in-group thinking also demands in-group behavior — during, and now exiting the pandemic, the more extreme that one reacted toward Covid, the more one demonstrated their membership in the left wing. (Being double masked and triple vaxxed was for a long time a progressive identity marker.) Quite simply, an extreme vaccination policy, out of step with much of the world yet perfectly accepted in progressive America, announces one’s institution as an unimpeachable member of the tribe.

That there is an association between respect toward free speech and respect toward bodily autonomy — or a lack thereof for each — at academic institutions shouldn’t surprise anyone. Both reflect attitudes either in agreement with or against a libertarian ideal of individual freedom. But the degree of correlation is still disheartening.

…It is an embarrassment that policies at many of our most elite institutions of higher education are the most divorced from scientific evidence, and are now, finally, even alienating mainstream liberals. FIRE’s free speech rankings, alas, help explain how we got to this place.

We live in a diverse society and that requires respect. Unfortunately, at some of our nation’s top universities there is no respect for diversity of opinion or choice.


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