Jason Riley, esteemed Wall Street Journal columnist and frequent commentator on the issues facing black Americans, was disinvited from his planned commencement speech at Virginia Tech this week. The department head and other faculty members had concerns about his writings on race, which focus on how government policy that is supposed to help black people has unintended consequences that actually ends up hurting them.
Riley’s disinvite follows a rash of others who have been told that their views are not welcome because they disturb campus activists. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) calls it “Disinvitation Season,” the time of year when students and faculty begin demanding commencement speakers be disinvited.
While student protest and criticism over commencement speakers can add to the dialogue over an issue, disinvitations—by their very nature—detract from the dialogue because they prevent a valuable perspective from being heard. There are so many disinvitations that FIRE has started a disinvitation database, which chronicles the 286 attempts in recent years.
If only these graduates could “disinvite” viewpoints they disagree with when they step into the real world.
In the video below, University of Wisconsin Professor Donald Downs explains why academic freedom and hearing opposing viewpoints is so valuable. “A fundamental way to learn is to encounter ideas with which you disagree.” Disinvite that!