College PC

Wellesley College's Freedom Project in Trouble for Promoting Wrong Kind of Diversity

The voices of intolerance have spoken.

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Wellesley
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Wellesley College's Freedom Project, an initiative that promotes intellectual diversity by inviting interesting speakers to campus, could be in jeopardy. The administration plans to tinker with it following criticism from the left that the project is a plot to advance libertarianism, given the ideological bent of its financial backers.

"The speakers are very conservative and libertarian-leaning," one student, Ivana Castro, told BuzzFeed. "They don't bring in the far left."

The Freedom Project is funded by billionaire philanthropists Charles and David Koch. In 2017, it received $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and another $1 million from donors in the Koch network. (Disclosure: David Koch sits on the board of the Reason Foundation, which publishes this magazine.)

Thomas Cushman, a sociology professor and director of the Freedom Project, is leaving the college for a year. The Boston Globe reports that it's not clear who will run the program in his absence, whether it will continue in its current form, or whether it will receive the same amount of funding:

The shake-up occurred after the Globe outlined how Wellesley's Freedom Project was pitched to conservative donors as a way to break through perceived liberal dogma on American campuses. It marks a significant shift for a program that the political network founded by Charles and David Koch held up two months ago as a marquee example of its campus-oriented efforts.

The Charles Koch Foundation issued $100 million worth of grants in 2017 for higher education, up from about $35 million in 2014, according to figures provided by the foundation. The money funded programs at roughly 350 colleges and universities last year. But the shift at Wellesley's Freedom Project raises questions about the sturdiness of the Koch-backed programs at a time when the organization is aggressively ramping up funding.

"We're noticing a sharp increase in students and faculty who are concerned about these programs, and who feel the urgent need to learn more about them," said Ralph Wilson, the cofounder of UnKoch My Campus, a group that seeks to uncover Koch funding at colleges and universities.

That description makes it sound as if the Freedom Project has exclusively hosted conservative firebrands. In reality, Cushman has invited a wide range of speakers. For instance, the Freedom Project recently hosted Alice Dreger, who is hardly a right-winger; she is a provocative author and historian of medicine whose experience is relevant to the campus free speech debate.

Cornell sociologist Kim Weeden shared her perspective on Twitter:

The Freedom Project has also hosted visiting scholars whose lives could be in danger because their views are offensive or illegal in their home countries. Wellesley is apparently interested in continuing that aspect of the program, at least.

College officials said in a statement that they want to "build on this initiative to more effectively include—and better engage—all voices across campus." But the Freedom Project was already making an effort to engage voices that are frequently left out of the conversation in left-wing academic circles. That seems to be exactly what got it in trouble.

The College Fix described the situation as a triumph of "the voices of intolerance" on campus, and it's hard to disagree. The Globe quotes the left-leaning author and activist Diane Ravitch, a Wellesley graduate, as expressing "embarrassment" that the Kochs were allowed to fund such a program at the college:

"There was a sense of astonishment," said Diane Ravitch, an author who graduated from the college in 1960 and has also funded a lecture series at the college. "People were saying, 'Why is the college accepting money from the Koch brothers to promote academic freedom at a bastion of academic freedom?'"

If Wellesley is truly a bastion of academic freedom, it will reject calls from people like Ravitch to purge the campus of any association with people disfavored by the left.

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32 responses to “Wellesley College's Freedom Project in Trouble for Promoting Wrong Kind of Diversity

  1. “The speakers are very conservative and libertarian-leaning,” one student, Ivana Castro, told BuzzFeed. “They don’t bring in the far left.”

    I’d hate to see the far left not represented at Wellesley.

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  2. Well I can see why something called the Freedom Project would not invite people who are anti-freedom.

  3. Will Cankles, class of 69, weigh in?

  4. “People were saying, ‘Why is the college accepting money from the Koch brothers to promote academic freedom at a bastion of academic freedom?'”

    They must see some irony there. Surely they aren’t so blind.

    1. Irony-deficiency, there should be a pill for that.

    2. Saying we’re “a bastion of academic freedom” doesn’t make it a reality … anymore than telling a little kid with an umbrella that he can parachute off the roof of a building. That umbrella turns inside out and it’s a quick trip onto the concrete below. Yahooooo!

  5. The administration plans to tinker with it following criticism from the left that the project is a plot to advance libertarianism, given the ideological bent of its financial backers.

    Curses! They’ve seen right through our plot to not teach socialism at every corner and at all times. I guess the Kochs will have to just keep their money and go back to silently advocating libertarianism from the shadows again.

    1. If Reason can just train their squirrels to hack Facebook, maybe the LP candidate can win next time.

  6. “The speakers are very conservative and libertarian-leaning,” one student, Ivana Castro, told BuzzFeed. “They don’t bring in the far left.”

    I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the far left is already well represented on campus. You could also start your own club and invite far left speakers. There is plenty of money out there for left-wing causes.

  7. “”Why is the college accepting money from the Koch brothers to promote academic freedom at a bastion of academic freedom?””

    Maybe, just maybe, Wellesley is no longer a bastion of academic freedom? Rigid and mandatory groupthink is not academic freedom. It’s the opposite in fact.

  8. The shake-up occurred after the Globe outlined how Wellesley’s Freedom Project was pitched to conservative donors as a way to break through perceived liberal dogma on American campuses.

    It poses the age-old question: Can liberals create a hypocrisy so heavy that irony cannot lift it?

    1. Liked that.

  9. Counterrevolutionary sentiment must not be tolerated. It might lead to people asking questions about the One True Idea.

  10. I’d have no problem with the UnKoch dude if he was just advocating that people follow the money trail. Shit, I think that’s a great idea to do all the time. The first time I saw a disclosure in a Reason article I was floored. I think it shows integrity, and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen CoI disclosures that weren’t at the bottom of an academic paper.

    I wonder how many liberal organizations are similarly funded; I feel like most of them truly are run on the sweat equity of idealistic youth, so it superficially seems like they are advocating the “proper,” popular position, but it’s so socially dangerous to express conservative (or even non-liberal!) sentiments that grassroots movements for different viewpoints are rare.

    I’ve heard the sites like The College Fix and CampusReform called “conservative.” I really never felt like that was the case. Seems to me like they just speak out apolitically against various civil rights violations found on campuses. It’s depressing that a single adjective can discredit a whole organization in the eyes of so many people.

  11. A probable hardcore feminist named “Ivana Castro”? That’s too much.

    1. thank you. I was like, “HOW CAN YOU ALL NOT BE LAUGHING AT THIS”

      i need a name like that to give reporters who want to quote me.

      “What’s your name”
      “Paul”
      “mmm hmmm. and your last name?”
      “Pott”

        1. Petey …
          Rhymes with Idi …
          Amin Dada

          Now THERE was a bastion of “academic freedom” ???

    2. Ivana Castrato might be equally appropriate

      1. And if Ivana Castrate founded a university, it would be…

  12. Don’t worry, the Wellesley student paper said last year there isn’t a problem on campus.

    “FREE SPEECH IS NOT VIOLATED AT WELLESLEY…

    “Many members of our community, including students, alumnae and faculty, have criticized the Wellesley community for becoming an environment where free speech is not allowed or is a violated right. Many outside sources have painted us as a bunch of hot house flowers who cannot exist in the real world. However, we fundamentally disagree with that characterization, and we disagree with the idea that free speech is infringed upon at Wellesley. Rather, our Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.

    “Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    1. ignore the ellipsis after the headline

    2. “Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. ”

      Is this moron so un-self-aware that she can’t see the irony?

      Stupid is as stupid does.

    3. Fuck you, comrade.

      1. Shouldn’t you say, “Please, fuck you, comrade”?

    4. This is simply the left’s way to shut down free expression: call everything with which they disagree “hate speech.” As has been stated many times on these pages, “the answer to bad speech is more speech, not less.”

    1. “The Trial of Socrates.”

      Sounds like Koched-out Trumpian populist hate speech to me!

  13. The administration plans to tinker with it following criticism from the left that the project is a plot to advance libertarianism,

    Every speech is a plot to advance a particular point of view. That’s why we have freedom of speech. People can listen and make up their own minds.

  14. I think most Wellesley students would agree they need more Koch

  15. It is interesting to see Diane Ravitch quoted as one of the principal censorship apologists. She was seen as a conservative intellectual specializing in school reform until 2013; then reversed her stance with dizzying speed. (“We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia.”) She now seeks to defend public education from rapacious plutocratic conspirators. A twitter account “notdianeravitch” preserves quotes from 2013 and earlier.

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