Conservatives in Academia: The Decorous Silence of Hadley Arkes

by Carl Eric Scott

Hadley Arkes, erudite author of the one must-read pro-life book, Natural Rights and the Right to Choose, and a professor at the very liberal Amherst College, comments at the Library of Law and Liberty site on the recent spate of withdrawn invitations for higher-ed commencement speakers. As is his wont, he makes unforeseen but telling connections to certain Supreme Court decisions, in this instance Lee v. Weisman and West Virginia School Board v. Barnette. But my favorite part is the following, which we just know comes from years and years of pained personal experience:

For conservatives the Commencements have become the occasion in which we sit, in courteous silence, as honors are bestowed on people we would be far from commending to the students or the public, to put the matter gently. To put it less gently we are asked to pay homage to people whose policies and teaching we would regard as morally destructive. And yet, we preserve a decorous silence. In the current state of affairs, that is not a restraint that has to be observed by people on the Left.

Arkes offers a glimmer of an alternative to such courtesy on the part of conservative professors and students in the piece, but seems hesitant about really recommending it. In the comments, I’m even more hesitant. So RTWT, and let us know what you think.