The residential liberal arts college that I attended was mostly filled with people who believed that everyone would benefit from robust, intellectually honest debate. As someone who didn't share the prevailing ideological assumptions on campus, I benefitted tremendously from having my ideas constantly challenged, and from challenging the ideas of others. Done right, public discourse is a crucible that tests every proposition, strengthening the best and destroying the worst, and I remember watching in horror on a few occasions when student protesters–leftists on every occasion–shouted down speakers to prevent their ideas being heard.
It hardly surprised me last week when I heard that a small faction of Brown University students shouted down New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. As regular readers know, I abhor his Stop and Frisk policy, as well as his inexcusable spying on Muslim Americans, enough to have documented and denounced it repeatedly. But it's the Brown student protesters who behaved inexcusably on this occasion.
What's heartening, after so many years of watching this happen in academia, is a backlash I didn't expect from some Brown administrators and faculty who understand that using force to suppress ideas is antithetical to a university's project.