The modern college campus is perceived to be rife with liberal and leftist students, professors and policies, especially by conservatives. Though this narrative gained traction during the anti-war protests of the ’60s, it made a tangible impact shown in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s 1971 memo entitled “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System.” In the eight-page memo, Powell called for American businesses to stand against the anti-capitalist beliefs perpetuated by the college system. This statement set a model for the conservative movement to follow.
Young conservative activists have followed in Powell’s footsteps by claiming that “ideological diversity” is under attack whenever their opinions are challenged, often using the phrase as cover for hateful sentiments. Though ideological diversity is technically defined as the “presence of diverging viewpoints, especially political viewpoints,” conservatives weaponize this phrase to make it encompass bigoted opinions.
Entire groups have been formed in order to protect this so-called “ideological diversity.” For example, Turning Point USA is the largest and fastest-growing conservative youth organization, claiming to be represented on more than 2,500 college campuses across the country. In addition to lending financial support to these student chapters, it also uses its national recognition to invite conservative celebrities like Ben Shapiro, TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk and others to speak on campuses nationwide. Despite NYU students’ left-leaning reputation, there is a chapter of TPUSA at our university. The nonprofit organization uses donations to offer activism grants and kits for TPUSA chapters and members of the Campus Freedom Alliance, which enables chapters to host speakers and events.
Other national organizations like College Republicans also have a chapter here, with regularly scheduled events. Current NYU College Republicans president Bobby Miller recently started a journalistic publication called the Washington Square Post. In a short statement, Miller said that the organization’s stated mission is to bring “ideological diversity to campus by providing a platform for heterodox views that are often marginalized in academic spaces.” Their first issue was released on March 22, 2021, with six preliminary articles.
However, these conservative organizations, under the guise of ideological diversity, often enable people who direct harmful rhetoric against marginalized communities. Charlie Kirk is known for his inflammatory and often inaccurate comments regarding Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement. NYU TPUSA invited Kirk to speak at their meeting in 2019.
From the usage of phrases like “progressive theory of transgenderism” to an article that claimed the 1964 Civil Rights Act went too far in protecting vulnerable, oppressed populations in the United States and instead “violat[ed] our most jealously guarded rights,” the Washington Square Post regularly features antiquated and discriminatory worldviews. The article’s author, who described the Civil Rights Act as “a great evil,” chose to remain anonymous, because they know that their views have no place in civil discussion. Is it really such a bad thing for attacks against minorities and LGBTQ+ students to remain “heterodox views”? Our campus is degraded when organizations like the Washington Square Post attack laws that put an end to de jure segregation. We ought to foster ideological diversity in debates about fiscal policy or infrastructure – not segregation! In this instance, the phrase “ideological diversity” is being used as a cover to espouse bigoted opinions.
What Washington Square Post fails to realize is that their comments do more to hinder ideological diversity than anything else. As a result of those articles, students of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community indubitably feel less welcome and less at liberty to express their opinions on campus. Opinions rooted in white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia have no place at New York University. The right to exist is not up for debate.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Apr. 26, 2021 e-print edition. Email Srishti Bungle at [email protected]